Professor DeScience

Midway through the year and happy to report I am still working on it!

Before the lockdown, I was gifted a microfilm reader from the Northeast Millerton Library as they were getting rid of their old one. I imagine that my grandmother, Clara Losee, who worked with the Northeast Historical Society might have used the same machine. It now resides in my dining room (this photo is from my living room where it sat in the winter). The wonderful folks at the Pine Plains Library let me check out the reel of the 1903 Pine Plains Register microfilm and I’ve been occasionally plugging away at reading the paper. I’m on October, now!

Microfilm Reader!
Microfilm Reader! In my house!

Actually, gotta tell you, admitting that I suck so hard at reading a ruddy newspaper is a lot for me. I’m super embarrassed about how long this is taking me and terrified that people think I’m an idiot. I’m not. I know I’m not. I do. Really. Yes. *sweats*

The front page did not contain any actual news.

Actually, most of the paper was devoid of what we might consider important news at all. If it did, it was often relegated to a quick mention on page 3. The longest articles were those reproduced from other papers or magazines about farming tips and women’s health/beauty/crafts.

But the jokes and short stories on the first page are still pretty priceless in terms of knowing what made the people of the era tick and I’m learning a lot from them.

There are blurbs that elicit the phrase “the more things change, the more they stay the same” interspersed with sexist, xenophobic, and racist jokes and opinions. Dumb people are poked fun at (usually Germans, or Irish, or Blacks), wives who can’t cook or clean to their husband’s liking are chided, mothers-in-law are vilified. The authors (be they local or nationally syndicated) complain that barn dances aren’t the same anymore, that the city folks come up and expect things to be a certain way, that women aren’t taking care of their houses the way they used to, and that it’s hard to keep young people on the farm.

And sometimes blurbs seem eerily topical to current events…

Scientists in Real Life. 

First Passenger – Who is that man drinking from that rusty mug chained to the watercooler? 

Second Passenger – That is Professor DeScience, author of Disease Germs in the Communion Cup.

Pine Plains Register, 10/2/1903

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

This is the year, people. Really really. Do or don’t. Whether I’m happy with it or not, this book is getting published. I will probably have to self-publish as I’m unsure if anyone would want to get on board with such a geographically-specific topic, but I’ll give it a shot.

Not Dead Yet

What has two thumbs and has not totally forgotten it’s writing a book? THIS GAL!

The book has been on hiatus, and I thought I should talk about that honestly.

I got cold feet as I got closer to being done writing it. Much of that has to do with footnotes! I can’t decide which way to err – to include no footnotes and make academic-types mad, or to include them and turn normal folks off. 

I did recently finally get the new version of InDesign, so I don’t have to worry about a serious compatibility problem that would have forced me to put footnotes at the bottom of each page rather than use endnotes, so that’s helpful, but some chapters have upwards of 100 of them. 

I also don’t know if it’s right/acceptable to put a digital version with all the citations online and direct book readers there as some have suggested. 

Then of course there’s the fear that I print this thing and something (or things) are wrong – and I don’t mean typos. Or someone who descends from the people featured doesn’t like what or how I wrote about their ancestors. I have seriously thin skin. And other than a little booklet about Revolutionary War soldiers, I have never published my own work (and if it weren’t for other people involved, I would have left my name off of it!).

I recently started looking at my files and all I have left to finish writing are two parts of the chapter about “life in 1903” – the one about morality and religion, and the one about health care. 

I’m not worried at all about the layout and I have more images than I know what to do with. It’s just these last two things I feel I don’t know enough about, but the only way I can think of to learn about the morality of people from Northern Dutchess County in 1903 is from the newspaper and I got as far as April of that year before I gave up. The Pine Plains library has a microfilm reader, but it sits on a file cabinet and there is no place for your legs or for your notebook and I end up in agony after an hour of searching.

Bweh bweh bweh. I know. 

tldr: I don’t have the confidence to finish or publish and I don’t know when I will, but I still think I will. Maybe.

Pine Plains Register

In my quest to understand more about how the people on the quilt thought and felt about the world around them, I’m reading through the 1903 Pine Plains Register newspaper. I started a while ago, but 1) I’m lazy and 2) the microfilm machine rests on its film cabinet with no space for legs or papers so it’s crazy uncomfortable to work on. As I am sure I’m the only jerk who uses the thing, I don’t think the fine folks at the PP Library want to hear about how much I think their set up stinks. So I can read through and make notes on about three papers per session before either time runs out or my tailbone snaps in half.

Below are some notes I made that are probably not useful for the book, but I thought were funny, interesting, or weird.

3 Apr: “If corsets were worn in sight – what a revolution there would be in their appearance!”

27 Mar: Two Pine Plains locals Frank Barton and Wm Bostwick went to Mexico to speculate on mines. Came back with gems, trinkets, and a small boar. Had adventures.

20 Mar: A party at Hattie Sheldon’s in Elizaville where they had food, organ playing, singing and John Detel with his “best selections on his gramophone”

13 Mar: “Dear obituary poets, no doubt you mean well, but, unless your work is approved by somebody of acknowledged good judgement, print it on little slips, if the friends really want it, and let it comfort them in that way.” (This must was probably in response to a really bad poem in the previous issue I saw but did not note). “Regard for the feelings of the family and for the reputation of the writer moves the editor to consign the rest to the waste basket. Do be careful how you write poetry on sad occasions.”

6 Mar: ‘Pon Honor Coffee, 18 cents/lb

27 Feb: At the Bowman opera house “De Rue Bros. Merry Co” of New York City “not a single vulgar feature in their entire program”

20 Feb: Snow of a foot or more, fences taken down in Mount Ross so teams could go through the fields. Some train delays.

13 Feb: Mr & Mrs E.J. Teator of Cokertown received uninvited guests from all over until 1AM with food, music and dancing. (Assume this was a newlywed “serenade”/skimelton/shivaree)

23 Jan: Phone cable across the Hudson from Newburgh to Fishkill was problematic, kept getting snagged by anchors.

9 Jan: “Old newspapers to put under carpets for sale at this office” 

Jackson Corners Vigilant Association

I will be speaking about the quilt at the 150th anniversary celebration of the Jackson Corners Vigilant Association for the Detection of Horse Thieves, Sunday November 18th at 4PM. See below flier for details. Seven men named on the quilt were members in 1903 and I’m going to chat about them at the event.

I joined last year as part of my effort to learn more about the history of the area, and I have been a member of the Red Hook Society for the Apprehension and Detention of Horse Thieves for several years. These organizations were formed by men who owned horses hoping to prevent or deter the theft of their horses, apprehend the thieves, get their horses back, or at least be compensated from club funds for the loss. Though not many members own horses anymore, the organizations persist as charitable organizations, donating to local causes or sponsoring agricultural scholarships.

If you would like to say you are a card-carrying vigilante, please attend this celebration or see me about or Larry Brody about joining – his contact info is also below. Click for .PDF version -> JC Vigilant Assoc

Rock City Lutheran celebrates 150 years

On Sunday, September 16th I attended the Rock City Lutheran Church’s 150th anniversary service as a guest of Rhinebeck Town Historian and church organist Nancy Kelly. Congregation founder John G. Schultz donated the land and built the church in 1868. Milan History uploaded an 8mm movie to their youtube channel shot during the Church’s 100th anniversary (see below). I think I recognize only one person (Dick Battenfeld) from what I’ve seen so far. If you know some of the folks in the video, do us a solid and jot the time-elapsed down and email me (see the contact section)!

For my part in the festivities I provided a draft of an updated survey of the Memorial Cemetery across the street in which Mr. Shultz and his family are buried (as well as my great-grandparents Clayton and Bertha Hermans). In 1974 my grandmother (on the other side) Clara Losee compiled records of burials from not only the tombstones, but from other vital records found in Rhinebeck and Red Hook. In 2017 I photographed the stones for Find-A-Grave and uploaded what I recorded there. After comparing my work with Gram’s I realized I missed a few and have yet to go back and retrieve them (it’s on the list!). I would also like to pad the record out with those burials for which there is no stone or inscription, but won’t have time to do the research for a long while (not on the list). After this, Art Kelly emailed me a bit irritated that I didn’t consult his work – a survey of the 20th century burials that I did not know existed. I have yet to consult this work, but it’s on the list… some day! Among those resting in the cemetery and also recorded on the quilt are a few members of the Battenfeld, Hermans, Schantz, Rhynders, and Shaffer families―only a handful of folks compared to other area cemeteries such as the Gallatin Reformed Church, Elizaville Methodist, Evergreen (Pine Plains), and Red Hook Lutheran. The numbers seem to correlate to stronger geographic proximity, church membership, and generations of the same family being interred in the same ground.

Status Update, September 2018

I’ve done a good amount of research about the Jackson Corners Grange (1901-1975)—more than is useful to the book. Thanks to New York State Grange President Stephen Coye I learned that there are no records held by his organization for this Grange other than the application paper and report of officers, the last of which was made in 1975. I also found two lengthy articles in the local papers from 1951 for their 50th anniversary, the first of which then Master Dorothea C. Wolken (their first “Lady Master”) wrote about their history thus far. Though her article is a treasure trove, the second onem, written reporting on the anniversary event itself is incredibly frustrating at times, especially this line: “The address by State Master Henry D. Sherwood had all laughing at some of the very true stories he told concerning the Jackson Corners of years ago.” Couldn’t have written them down, guys?! Sigh. Not much has been recorded for historical purposes about this long-shuttered organization, so with the help of Milan Town Councilmember Jack Campisi who is writing about it for the Milan Bicentennial newsletter, we’ll work something up for the Milan NY History website https://milannyhistory.org/.

This summer has been a busy one and I’ve done only a small amount of work on the book, including examining the JC Grange treasurer’s records that Jack lent to me. I’m also reading through the 1903 Pine Plains Register newspaper to get a sense of how people felt about the world they lived in. It’s one thing to research statistics and hard facts, but getting into the heads of people whom no one now living remembers is tough. The papers have lead to both some interesting insights and also the old chestnut “the more things change the more they stay the same.”

I’ve had the genealogy sections completed (to my satisfaction) for so long and have assembled a ton good images to use that lately I’m feeling frustrated that I haven’t gotten to the layout stage yet. But I want to do the history justice—even if I don’t have currently have the drive to finish it.

Onward!

The Grange

Before I discovered proof that the quilt was created for the benefit of the Jackson Corners Methodist Church’s then pastor Rev. W.L. Cadman, I had thought that perhaps it was made for the local Grange as there were so many folks named on it that were members.

The Grange in 1903 was one of the most important resources for farmers not to give them a political voice, but for sharing skills and information, and served as probably a third of a rural person’s social life (the remainder filled by church service and events, and by calling on family and friends).

Thanks to connecting with Ryan Orton at the Milan 200th event, I was invited to the Stanford Grange #808’s open house meeting and pot luck on Tuesday the 24th. I got to see firsthand the camaraderie and community involvement that the Grange still has today, as well as the very cool (to me, anyway!) traditional rituals that govern their meetings. There’s a lot of parading, singing (with live piano!), call and response, hand gestures, and heavy velvet sashes on each officer. Cool stuff. And I was assured that what I saw did not differ that much from a meeting in 1903. Well, I don’t think they recessed the meeting to pop balloons with their butts back then, but that’s progress for ya! I had a great time and am very thankful to Ryan and the fine folks at Stanford Grange for having me. I sat next to the New York State Grange President Stephen Coye at dinner and he’s offered to help me see if there is anything regarding the Jackson Corners Grange in the archives at Cornell!

The blur is an Eagle Scout darting for a chair at the other end of the room so he can pop a balloon in this fun way to break up the meeting.

Best part, tho? They have a signature quilt!

It’s from 1940 and each block was signed (some are actually “signed” proper, others are in one hand) by members of a different Grange. It is joined with turkey red between the blocks and it is backed and tied, though does not feel like it has any batting between the layers. The embroidery is done in rainbow colors and one block is inked. 10 cents was raised from each signer. Below is the the Jackson Corners block and the Rock City block with notes.

Names that are both on the Jackson Corners block (above) and on the 1903 Methodist quilt: W.A. (Willis) Bathrick and his wife Maggie (Kilmer) Bathrick, Susie Wolcott (widow of George) and her sister Minnie Smith, Florence (Bathrick) Hapeman (wife of Fred), and Floyd Couse and his wife Lulu (Bathrick) Couse. On the Rock City block (below) I can pick out only Irving Fraleigh as appearing on both, though there are many matching surnames.

Town of Milan Bicentennial event 4/7/2018

This Saturday (April 7th, 2018), I’ll be talking the ears of anyone who will listen about the book at the Town of Milan Bicentennial event. The address sounds out there, but the town hall is just west of the gas station near the Taconic Parkway off Rt 199 between Pine Plains and Red Hook. Can’t miss it. Big banner. Plenty of parking. The forecast is for rain/snow with a high of 46 so you don’t have any gardening to do, so…

Come over and say hi! Get a rare change to see the quilt in person! Thrill at the…uh…cool historic stuff!

Refreshments!

Index of Names added!

I’ve added a new page with the index of names that appear on the quilt. Use the “Index of Names” link above to check it out.

Recognize someone? Let me know by using the “Contact” link above. I’d love to include your family or locale photos in the book. I’ve already made quite a few connections through my research with great folks who have shared not only images but stories about their ancestors, helping me to paint a clearer picture of life in Jackson Corners at the turn of the century.