LF Historical Society Writing Series dedication to Hector Allen

Since 1911, Moreland Park has played an important role in community life for generations of Little Falls residents. Family picnics, group outings, community events and celebrations, wedding receptions, birthday and graduation parties, family and class reunions, and kids squealing with delight on the playground equipment are all common occurrences on the park’s bucolic grounds. We all have our own Moreland Park memories.

Late 19th century map of Moreland (Park).

Late 19th century map of Moreland (Park).

“Back in the day,” political party clambakes and picnics were also commonplace on the park’s spacious lawns. A September 21, 1888 newspaper article describes an outing and field days held by Irish societies at Burwell Grove (Moreland Park’s earlier name) that were attended by an estimated 2500 – 3000 people. Food, refreshments, (perhaps some alcoholic beverages?) and athletic sports filled the day. Events included exhibitions of strength, throwing of weights, jumping, baseball, foot races, and hurling. Different times.

As a youth, I regularly attended city summer programs at Moreland Park, often competing against kids from other park programs in hotly contested softball and basketball games, horseshoe matches, and other athletic contests. Chasing the softball “over the hill” as an opposing player circled the bases was a common occurrence.

WHO WAS DUDLEY BURWELL?

But how did this wonderful public space come to be? The philanthropic instincts of one man, Dudley Burwell, set everything in motion more than a century ago. This September marks the centennial plus ten years of the opening of Moreland Park in 1911.

By any measure, Dudley Burwell (1800-76) was a complex man, both a product of his time and a community visionary. Burwell was a Fairfield Academy attendee, a Herkimer County Bank board director, a prominent attorney, an Episcopal Church director, a Mason, the donator of the bell for the Academy at Little Falls, a Barnburner Democrat in post-Civil War America, a NYS Assemblyman, a community benefactor, a philanthropist, and the namesake of a city street.

Barnburners opposed both the emancipation of slaves before the Civil War and equality, citizenship, and Black suffrage afterwards. Unfortunately, these same sentiments still linger in American society and politics to this day.

It is not the intent of this article to pass judgment on Burwell’s political perspectives on racial issues. We must remind ourselves that Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and our third president, owned over fifty slaves and fathered a number of mixed-race children. Judged by modern racial sensibilities, both Jefferson and Burwell would seem at best insensitive, but their accomplishments should not be besmirched.

In short, Burwell’s life was one filled with professional achievements and great community service. His most lasting community legacy? Moreland Park, the thirty-acre gem of lawn and woodland situated at a point that originally commanded a magnificent view of the gorge and valley beyond.

BURWELL’S PHILANTHROPY AND MORELAND PARK

Burwell was born in Norway, NY in 1800, seventeen years after the Revolutionary War. He settled in Little Falls in the 1820’s and upon his passing on August 18, 1876, the land for Moreland Park was assigned to his friend William Milligan for his lifetime. When Milligan died on January 8, 1904, the future park became property of the City of Little Falls.

Burwell also bequeathed to the City upon Milligan’s death the balance of the Dudley Burwell Trust Fund. Milligan had been the trustee of that fund between 1876 and 1904 and at the time of his death, this trust fund contained some $17,000 (approximately $500,000 in 2021 value). The funds were to be used exclusively for park maintenance.

Inscription on Dudley Burwell monument.

Inscription on Dudley Burwell monument.

Burwell’s gravesite monument sits high on a hillside in the northern section of Moreland Park inside an enclosure of four wrought iron posts and connecting chains; an enclosure in need of repair. His gravesite has a commanding view of the grounds below as if Burwell still oversees his estate even in death. The pathways and trails in this northern section of Moreland Park meander through a mature hardwood forest. In the heat of summer, the area is shady, cooler, and often breezy.

At times, the Burwell gravesite is referred to as a cenotaph, most likely because Burwell’s wife Catherine, who died on April 5, 1835, less than a year after her marriage to Burwell on June 30, 1834, is buried elsewhere. The Moreland Park monument inscription reads: “She sleeps with her family relatives in Balston, Saratoga County.” Heartbreaking.

The Burwell family plot is in the Norway cemetery, but Dudley is not interred there. Strange tales of grave robbers exhuming Burwell’s skeletal remains and taking him on a horse-drawn wagon tour of Little Falls cannot be verified. Perhaps more tall tale than strange tale?

MORELAND PARK IS BORN

During the City’s 1911 centennial celebration, Mayor Timothy Dasey dedicated Moreland Park for public use. The park’s pavilion was also constructed in 1911. In recent years, extensive repairs have been made to both the wooden pavilion and the stone restroom building.

The origins of the name “cook house” associated with a second stone structure in Moreland Park is in question. Its name could simply mean that the building was where food could be cooked in the twin fireplaces or, the building’s name could have originated with the fact that the Cook farm and orchard was contiguous to that portion of Moreland Park.

The 1911 dedication ceremony was quite the event. Most attendees walked to Moreland Park that day in part because the roadway was only partly constructed at that time. Board of Public Works president Charles Conboy accepted the parcel of land on behalf of the City before Mayor Dasey addressed the large crowd on hand. Attorney M.G. Bronner spoke of Burwell as being upright and honorable in all of his business dealings. A band concert in the new pavilion followed.

Little Falls’ 1911 centennial included a number of other interesting events, including the opening of our post office, the dedication of the Octagon Church monument at the corner of Church and Prospect Streets amidst the weeklong celebration. Mayor Dasey must have been quite the busy City official that week.

BURWELL’S FINAL YEARS AND DEATH

Burwell was a gentlemen farmer on his land over the final quiet years of his life. His will stipulated that no undertaker should be involved with his funeral proceedings; several of Burwell’s workmen handmade his coffin from a butternut tree cut from his forest. The coffin was then placed in a lead “rough boy” container. It was said that this was because of the fear of grave robbery. It was said at the time of his passing that the lead “rough boy” matched well with Burwell’s solid rock-like character.

Burwell also figured prominently in the establishment of the first bank in Herkimer County in 1833, the Bank of Herkimer County, which of course is presently the Old Bank Museum and home base for the Little Falls Historical Society. Burwell owned the land on which the bank was constructed.

MORELAND PARK’S LOWER PORTION IN NEED OF FURTHER REPAIR

Moreland Park actually extends all the way downhill to the backline of Moreland Street properties. The historic roadway wall and walled lookout viewing area were constructed in the 1930’s Great Depression using FDR’s New Deal Public Works Agency funds. The lookout affords viewers one of the most beautiful panoramic views of the city below.

Fortunately, funding was secured in 2020 to repair the lookout itself which had fallen victim to neglect and vandalism. These repairs were carried out masterfully.

Unfortunately, the roadway wall remains in neglected condition and is in need of substantial repair. There were once horizontal wooden railings between the stone columns and above the walls in between these columns. Hopefully, city government will be able to orchestrate the resources to continue these repairs with the roadway side walls and restore this historic gem. The lookout and roadway walls should also be considered for National Registry of Historic Places status.

In final summation, Dudley Burwell’s prominent position in Little Falls history as a generous philanthropist and influential figure is well deserved. Think of him the next time you walk on “his street” or visit “his park.” Happy one hundred and tenth birthday Moreland Park and thank you Dudley Burwell!

Jeffrey Gressler is a member of the Little Falls Historical Society.

From 2011 to 2013, I wrote my master’s degree thesis for the Cooperstown Graduate Program about “Pitt the Painter” and his role in showcasing the identity of Little Falls by means of his artwork. The project was largely based on oral histories told by those in town who remembered him since his death on September 4, 2007. While I spoke with several people, there were so many more I did not reach, as Pitt’s sphere of influence seemed immeasurable. The project went on, and it was apparent that these stories meshed together as modern-day folklore about talent, humor, addiction, and belonging.

When I wrote the thesis, I was only able to see the exterior of Pitt’s studio loft at 56 West Mill Street. The building originally housed Andrew Little & Sons Lumber Company and was later occupied by Little Falls Construction downstairs while Pitt lived and worked above. By the time I reached the scene four years after Pitt’s death, however, 56 West Mill Street sat locked and vacant, with remnants of Pitt’s work still painted on the panes of window glass which had not yet broken from vandalism and neglect.

Photographs remaining in Pitt’s old studio loft at 56 West Mill Street, now in the possession of Mike George, Ironrock Brewing Co.

Years later, 2020 proved to be a time of growth amidst hardship. Mike George, of the George Lumber family, purchased 56 West Mill Street in 2018 and opened Ironrock Brewing Company during the pandemic. The brewery has had great success in spite of mandated state shutdowns and social distancing measures. As I became acquainted with Mike, I mentioned that I wrote the thesis about Pitt. Mike revealed that Pitt’s loft was far from empty when he purchased the building and he allowed me to go upstairs once in November 2020 and again in April 2021. The loft was largely untouched in November and the walls were scrawled with Pitt’s sketches of Jack Nicholson, prices and addresses for various commissioned signs, and Latin epitaphs. The room was littered with a massive project table, a few brushes, and several papers. By April, Mike had undertaken significant repairs to the walls and ceiling, as the room was plagued with water damage and surrounding beams were licked by flames from a fire many years before. Still, the paint-spattered wood floor remained, as well as Pitt’s easel and almost two hundred Kodak photographs depicting artwork and people in social settings; many presumably taken by Pitt himself from the 1970s to the early 2000s. These surviving objects allow Pitt to tell his own story.

“Welcome to the Work of Stephen Pitt Nichols: Fouling the nests of the ‘Art World’ for fun & profit since 1974.” Photograph from the collection of Stephen Pitt Nichols, now in the possession of Mike George, Ironrock Brewing Co.

Stephen Pitt Nichols was born on January 21, 1951 in New Haven, Connecticut to John “Jack” Roy and Opal Holland Nichols. Little is known about his early life in Connecticut, other than the fact that he had two younger twin brothers, one of whom became a painter by trade. At the end of his teenage years, Pitt attended the School of Music at Little Creek in Norfolk, Virginia for flute. He then served in the U.S. Army from 1969-71. His position in the army band allowed him to avoid entering conflict in Vietnam. It is also likely that Pitt attended the Paier Art College in Hamden, Connecticut sometime in the early 1970s for formal art training, but no records from the school survive to prove he attended; perhaps because Paier had not become a four-year degree-granting institution until 1982. A photograph found in the loft, however, suggests that Pitt began creating art as his livelihood in 1974.

By the late 1970s, Pitt ended up in Schenectady, New York as a landscaper at Union College. He was an avid baseball fan and enjoyed watching the Union College baseball team. On one momentous occasion in the early 1980s, Pitt followed some of his friends on the Union College team to watch the Little Falls Mets play a home game. After the game ended, Pitt remained in Little Falls. He quickly enmeshed himself in local society by frequenting public spots and engaging in conversation with notable townspeople. He found all facets of society equally interesting, and enjoyed talking about politics, literature, and current events. Once his talents as an artist came to light, people began calling him “Pitt the Painter.”

In the early 1990s, Pitt took up residence in the loft at 56 West Mill Street, bartering window decals, business signs, and odd jobs for his tenancy. A photograph dating roughly to that time provides a glimpse of Pitt’s studio setup. It was cluttered, yet logical; and active, with projects at various stages of completion and several yellow cans of “1 Shot” brand paint at the ready. One can almost envision the cans and brushes rattling on the table as Pitt paced across the floor, dragging and sawing plywood sheets, or playing his flute erratically, much to the dismay of the business operations of Little Falls Construction below. Pitt developed a large local clientele while living at the loft. As a result, people from all walks of life poured into the Little Falls Construction office to visit Pitt upstairs. Customers, though always satisfied with the quality of Pitt’s work, were rarely pleased with the length of time he took to produce it. They often inquired about the status of their orders. Pitt was a perfectionist, and, consequently, he never felt his paintings were finished. His alcoholism sometimes slowed the output of his work. During his benders, customers pounded on the door to demand their commissions. Pitt sobered up long enough to paint what he promised.

In 2021, the loft is nearly empty, but familiar light spills in through the windows. Pitt’s easel stands like a beacon, scarred with outlines of paint from numerous past projects. Upon closer inspection, one can see that Pitt wrote in Latin on the front of the easel, just next to where a work of art would sit: “Qui Transtulit Sustinet,” or “He Who Transplanted Still Sustains.” This phrase happens to be the official colonial motto of Connecticut, Pitt’s home state. It suggests that he kept a connection to his roots, but also speaks volumes for his transient habits. The phrase implies that a person will survive regardless of his or her location. Perhaps, any place can become home with some effort. Whether by means of intelligent conversation, antics, or his artistic output, Pitt sustained himself in Little Falls. Additionally, the surviving Kodak photos prove that he made an artistic impact on a much larger geographic radius including Schenectady, Mohawk, St. Johnsville, Otter Lake, and other locales.

“Qui Transtulit Sustinet,” Connecticut state motto once written by Pitt on his easel, seen in April 2021.

Some of Pitt’s early work referenced his roots. Found among the photos is a 1981 sketch depicting an unknown female relative entitled “First Cake.” The sketch was based on a black and white family photograph from the 1930s-40s. The same year, Pitt completed a more complex finished pencil drawing of the subject. The drawing now belongs to Jim Drebitko, a friend whom Pitt met while living in Schenectady. Today, one can only conjecture why the topic of a woman’s first successful bake was so important to Pitt.

The print which currently rests on Pitt’s easel, previously strewn amongst other papers in the loft, is particularly poignant. It proves that Pitt was a published artist: a revelation I had not known when I wrote my thesis ten years ago. Entitled “Things from the Kitchen,” the work was originally painted by Pitt in 1979. While the location of the kitchen depicted in the artwork is unknown, the specific rust spots on the enameled utensils and the dents and dings in the bead board wall paneling suggest it was a real setting, and one that Pitt knew well. He self-published the artwork as a print in 1980 while living in Schenectady. Pitt dabbled in self-publishing as a means to boost his income, but the benign artwork themes he chose to reproduce were not the best choices to appeal to wide audiences. Had he chosen more of his photorealistic landscapes depicting relatable sites in Schenectady or Little Falls, his prints might have sold more successfully. One can deduce that these early setbacks might have encouraged Pitt to give his work a more overtly regional, rather than personal, focus later on. Pitt’s own copy of “Things from the Kitchen” became scrap paper, as evidenced by its rolled condition and a line drawing of a nude on the back side.

Regardless, Pitt still found subtle ways to inject himself into pieces that were more marketable. For instance, no two versions of his iconic “Erie Canal, Little Falls” scene are the same. The ever- changing proximity of the whiskey jug to the man on the packet boat symbolized Pitt’s stage of sobriety at the time he painted each scene. The closer the jug, the greater Pitt’s struggle was. Furthermore, Pitt’s constant renderings of the actor Jack Nicholson likely appealed to fans of the movie star and people bought the artwork because it was a quirky topic. In actuality, Pitt had a wordplay connection to the actor’s name, in that he himself was Jack Nichols’ son.

Pitt’s Erie Canal scene and lettering on a Little Falls ambulance, early 1990s. (Note the whiskey jug immediately to the left of the boatman). Photograph from the collection of Stephen Pitt Nichols, now in the possession of Mike George, Ironrock Brewing Co.

Mike George was kind enough to allow me to scan all two hundred of Pitt’s photographs from the loft at 56 West Mill Street. In the future, I plan to assemble a self-guided tour featuring the historic images of Pitt’s artwork in comparison to the same vantage points today. Although it has been fourteen years since his death, Pitt’s legacy is still present in Little Falls. He left us with daily physical reminders in the form of his artwork and personal belongings. While some of Pitt’s signs have succumbed to theelements over time, the impressions he left upon many townspeople have not yet faded. He who transplanted still sustains.

Photograph from the collection of Stephen Pitt Nichols, now in the possession of Mike George, Ironrock Brewing Co.

Laura Laubenthal is a member of the Little Falls Historical Society. She received her Master’s degree in Museum Studies from the Cooperstown Graduate Program / SUNY Oneonta. The Historical Society has collaborated with Cooperstown Graduate Program students on projects in recent years.

A Memoir and Interview with Jan P. Holick Sr

When asked if I had any siblings, I often quipped, “My brother and I were only children.” While my first decade was spent in the peaceful and prosperous 1950s, his was spent just prior and during World War II. Recently my big brother, Jan Holick Sr., (born 1935, and graduated from Little Falls High School 1953,) sat down with me, (born 1951, and graduated 1969,) and shared his memories of a time I never knew except in history books. He was kind enough to open a window to his past, and this article invites you to share that view.

Jan Holick taken at Caroga Lake Photo Booth.

Until he was eight, Jan lived on Third Street, third house from the tracks, across from the Polish Community Hall, in the upstairs apartment with our parents, Paul and Irene Holick(Holcik) Jr., and maternal grandparents, John and Sadie Zeski, both Polish immigrants. Our parents and grandparents all had jobs. Gramma and Djai Djai (Polish for grandfather) in Gilberts and Snyders respectively, Mom in Luries, and Dad at Remington Arms. Recalling life close to the tracks, Jan laughed, “When a train went by the house shook!” He continued, “In those days, mail was delivered by the trains. The incoming mail pouch was thrown off at the station and the outgoing mailbag, which hung from a hook, was picked up by a hook on the train. Express trains would roar through and blow their whistles to make sure the tracks were clear. That was ‘fun’ hearing the train whistle in the middle of the night.”

Most of his friends went to Church St. School, where he attended, walking a mile uphill, “It was easier coming home, especially in the wintertime when we slid downhill all the way.” They played in his backyard before the arterial was built.

When he was six or seven, he recalled a routine with Djai Djai. “Our grandfather liked to have a beer after work. He’d get home from Snyder’s, shave, shower, and hand me a quarter. I’d walk directly across the street to what was then the Polish Hall. The bartenders all knew who I was because this happened three to four times a week. I’d get a pitcher of beer and a glass of soda all for a quarter.” After delivering them, they both enjoyed their beverages.

Likewise at that age, our family, like many in town, took in “Fresh Air” children from inner New York City for a week in the summer as part of a voluntary community wide effort to improve their lives by getting them out of the City. “These children were brought in by bus, about 20-30 children met by the same number of families. I don’t remember who the primary sponsor was.” Children were matched best as possible to the ages of the children in the host families so there was some commonality. Most had never been out of the City; some never left their block. Using his A ration card for gas, Dad, “piled them in the car and took them out to see a real farm. They’d never seen grass or hay or a cow before. They were amazed. Mom bought them clothes, so they always went home with more. She and Gramma fed them lots of good food, too.”

In 1943, when he was eight, the family moved to 86 N. William Street where he found plenty of playmates on the block. “There were no kids my age on Third Street. I got up to William St. and there was one in every house.” They played in the acres of woods up the hill, loved the waterfall, and looked for Little Falls (NOT Herkimer) diamonds. “I still have a few keepers of those.” He roamed the grounds of Burrell’s Mansion from end to end, enjoying views of the city and hiking to where the golf course is now.

In the winter, sledding was a big activity. “We had a big toboggan. We’d load anywhere from four to six kids on it and go from the top of the hill, stopping at the first tree we hit. Unless you had a run set up, turning a corner in a toboggan is a big deal. I’d ride in front because I could steer it a little with my feet, but there’s only so much you can do with a toboggan. It goes downhill in a hurry. Going back up the hill was the hard part.”

Our discussion turned to the War. Jan was four when Hitler attacked Poland and doesn’t remember hearing about that. However, when he was six, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and “We heard about it on the big Philco radio in the front room. We all gathered around and listened to our leader, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, talk about the Day of Infamy. The Allies were at war in Europe and now democracy was under attack on a different front.”

Our Uncle Max, (Matthew Zeski) served in the war as a Captain in the Field Artillery after attending Officers Candidate School and was in the Philippines when the War ended. “He was not part of the slaughter at Corregidor and Bataan. He brought me back a machete.” Jan’s oldest son, Jay, has the machete now. The family displayed a Blue Star flag in the window. “Virtually every house had a flag in the window. I can’t remember any Gold Stars, but I’m sure there must have been some.” Flags were displayed on the street side so everyone walking by would see them.

The family regularly listened to FDR’s fireside chats. “The radio was the main source of war news. The second was Movietone News. At the Rialto theater when you went to one of the westerns they specialized in, if you had a double header, it was between the movies. If not, it preceded the movie that was playing that day.”

Asked how the family felt about FDR, Jan replied, “They loved him. Everyone loved him. He was everybody’s grandfather and father. He led us out of the Great Depression and through most of the war until he died. Harry S Truman took over and ended the war in the Pacific in dramatic fashion. You’ve probably seen photos, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Everybody applauded.”

Discussion turned to Dad’s role in the War. “Dad worked at Remington Arms making the weapons of war. Consequently, the Selective Service Board, otherwise known as the Draft Board, decided that was a better place for him. After signing up, part of the swearing in was allowing the Board to call you up and say, ‘You’re going in the Army, you’re going in the Navy.’ In Dad’s case, they said, ‘You’re going to continue to make guns.’ One of the weapons he worked on was a tank gun cannister that was a lot like a shotgun shell only a diameter of say three or four inches that fit into the main cannon of the tank. An antipersonnel weapon, the results would be like shooting a shotgun into a covey of quail. The aside on that was he’d bring home some of the metal balls that went into that shell. As a result, I became the marble king of William St.” While I never became a marble queen, I remember those “steelies,” never knowing what they really were.

“Dad got an A ration card which was pasted on the inside of the car windshield like registration is now. It was for gas only, not food, which was also rationed, to enable him to commute to and from Ilion for work. Virtually everything was rationed, butter, sugar, everything.”

Rationing was not a problem at the top of William Street. Most people in town didn’t keep chickens or pigs, but, “with the bucolic setting, we built a chicken coop attached to the garage and raised chickens. Underneath the chickens, we raised pigs.” The adults didn’t have any problem slaughtering the chickens, “but when it came to the pigs, it was local taxidermist, Jim Styers’ job. I was the primary care giver for the chickens who all had names, and it wasn’t fun to see your friends go to the slaughterhouse.” Though unhappy, he ate his “friends” but not the two big roosters. “My Rhode Island Red was named Toughie and Dad’s Plymouth Rock was named Spike. Those two would go at it.”  Chicken is still not his favorite dish.

Dad’s uncle who had a vegetable farm in Indian Castle, “would drive into town on a Saturday morning and bring us veggies. We’d give him some eggs. I remember he had a peg leg, and I marveled at how he maneuvered with that peg.”

Dad was an Air Raid Warden responsible for maintaining the blackout laws. “It was a huge concern that the Germans would bomb upstate New York, and the only navigational aids they’d have would be lights. They’d bomb lights shining from the ground. A cluster of lights meant a city.” Hence, all cities had blackout laws. “Everyone had a blackout curtain in their house. You’d pull the shades, put the blackout curtain over that so no light would peek out.” Streetlights were turned off as well. “I would go out with him on his rounds which was an appointed number of blocks in the neighborhood. If we saw any light shining out, we’d knock on the door. Never once were we given any argument about shutting down the light source.” Finding a violation, “was a rare occasion because everybody was pretty careful. There was plenty passing of the word.” No signal was given for lights out, only darkness, “People became trained.” Describing his feelings about that experience, Jan said, “I was excited. We were doing our own little part to protect our turf. Anything you could do to help the war effort made any kid happy. A common prayer in those days was God bless everyone but the Germans and the Japs.”

At home, other activities to support the war included conserving as much as possible due to rationing, saving bacon grease in a can in the kitchen, saving cans and foil from gum wrappers, rubber bands, etc. which were brought to a drop off place, similar to recycling, but to a different end. “Gramma had a Victory garden, having plenty of fertilizer available,” he laughed. “She had a green thumb and grew beautiful flowers but conceded to growing vegetables during the war.” She canned those vegetables.

At school, “All the kids would buy war bond stamps. You had a booklet, and if you had ten cents, which was one stamp, you bought it and put it in the booklet. Fill up the book, and you get a bond which was $18.75. So, in my case, I’d get some money from Mom and Dad once a week and buy the stamps. War bonds were intended to give the government money to support the protection of democracy until the war was over. When the war was over, you could redeem them at any bank. Face value on an $18.75 bond was $25.00.”

Besides feeding the chickens, another of my brother’s chores was tending to the coal furnace twice a day, before school in the morning and bed at night. “We had a coal bin in the cellar. A coal truck would pull up and dump the coal down the chute to the bin. When you had to shovel in the coal, you also had to shovel out the ash. Burning coal produced a lot of ash” which was also put on the garden.

Jan was nine on VE Day, ten on VJ Day. “The news didn’t get to us until about 6 o’clock at night via the radio. The VE Day celebration was especially poignant because a lot of the people in Little Falls were Eastern European. Many still had families there. Little Falls was an ethnic melting pot, Polish, Slovakian, Ukrainian, Irish, Italian. People came out on the street and celebrated. Church bells rang out. On VJ Day it was absolute joy and relief that the War was finally over, and President Truman had the gumption to do what he did. Truman was one of my heroes, a commonsense guy. Rode the train!”

As I close this window to the past, I’ll share a story from the present Jan told regarding how the War shaped him. “I was at the cemetery visiting Jean [his wife]. As I was talking to her, a trumpet played Taps. Instinctively, I stood up and saluted. Others just looked at me. The War gave me an intense sense of patriotism that has stayed with me. You’ll always find a flag flying in my front yard.”

One sees many flags of all kinds flying these days, and hears much talk of patriotism, but I doubt many motives are as pure as those of my big brother.

The author with Chinese amah, Ah Quay, in Manila, Philippines in 1935.

In February of 1935, while snow fell heavily over Herkimer County in upstate New York, a cable arrived at the home of The Honorable Homer P. Snyder on Ann Street in Little Falls. It announced the birth of H.P.’s first great grandchild. It read: “Mother and child doing fine. Father barely survived!” Thus, I arrived amidst tropical breezes in the city of Manila, on the island of Luzon, in the Philippines, set between the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Manila: 8324 miles away from the city on the Mohawk River.

Front forward: late October 1935. The time had arrived to show me off in Little Falls. Thus, on a hot and humid day, we arrived at pier 7 in Manila, with much luggage, prepared to board the freighter S.S. Lee.  It seems I quite unwillingly left the arms of my amah, Ah Quay. I clung to her blue smock top. But then, zip up the gangplank I went with my father, the smell of sea spray and salt heavy in the air.

There were, I am told, twelve passengers, plus crew and cargo aboard ship. I have no actual memories of that first trip. I do have a photo album of black and white pictures featuring the sights of Hong Kong, Shanghai, Yokohama, Honolulu, San Pedro, and the passage through the Panama Canal. They were taken by my father with his brand-new Leica camera.

I feature in the arms of various amahs in whose care I was left while my parents went out on the town in whatever port we were in. Thirty-two days after leaving Manila, the ship steamed into the dockyards of Newport News, Virginia. We were almost there. My parents transported me and my luggage to a hotel. The next day, we took a train that eventually got us to New York City and the Plaza Hotel, another overnight and then the final leg from NYC to Herkimer.

Waiting on the platform at the train station, stamping his feet in the brisk November air was Mauice Murphy, H.P.’s chauffeur.

He bundled us into the car and in no time at all, we stepped over the threshold of 37 Ann Street into the arms of our waiting family. It had taken us a total of thirty-five days to travel from Manila to Little Falls. We were to make the same trip five times before I was five years old.

From the last of those five trips aboard the Canadian Pacific steamship Express of Canada my brain registered things that have remained indelibly stamped there over a lifetime, primarily the feel of tropical heat radiating up from the dock, the accompanying smell, the sea water slapping on the hull of the ship, while on the dock above a brass band played “Philippines, My Philippines” to the tune of Maryland, My Maryland.”

As the last of the luggage was loaded below deck, we were handed rolls of crepe paper streamers. Holding one end, we threw the other to family and friends waving goodbye to us from the pier below. Some of the streamers snapped too soon and fell in the water between the ship and dock. However, there was one that held on until the last minute as the ship, having backed out of the dock, turned, headed out to pass the island of Corregidor at the mouth of Manila Bay and on to open sea. I was left happy but with my hands sticky and sweat stained from the multi-colored streamers.

In the ports of Honk Kong and Shanghai, I can still see the stick-thin rickshaw men lined up on the dock waiting to pull passengers to nearby hotels. In port in 1937 Shanghai, I was young, but I can clearly remember hearing explosions and trying to look out the porthole to see what I must have thought were fireworks. In actual fact, it was the forces of Imperial Japan attacking the Chinese portion of the city. Shanghai was divided into concessions. There was a British Concession, a French Concession and we were tied up in the International Concession. We were safe from the destruction, but I did not know that, and I remember being frightened and wishing my parents would come back to the ship. They did and all was well for me, but not for the residents of Shanghai.

Unlike China, the United States at that time was not at war with Japan.

We sailed onwards to Yokohama. The amah I had in Yokohama wore a colorful kimono and I was certain she only had two toes on each foot. Her slippers were divided in such a manner that her big toe and the one next to it went on one side and the other three toes on the other side. Her white socks were fashioned for this. When the ship docked in Honolulu, I stood on deck with a little girl my age called Tanya Hallberg. The two of us threw coins into the crystal-clear water below, watching them swirl down, down, down. The waiting Kanaka beach boys dove in quickly to retrieve them. Shooting back out of the water, wide smiles on their faces, coins clutched in their hands; victorious.

There were girls in grass skirts, multiple flower leis around their necks, who were swaying to the music played by a ukulele band. Arms upraised, they told a story with their hands and fingers. Grace personified. Legend had it that Leis thrown overboard that headed back in towards Waikiki Beach meant you would be assured of a return visit. I threw mine as far as my small arm could throw, leaving the scent of jasmine in the air. They floated steadily back towards land. I now believe some legends prove true as since 1948, I have crossed the Pacific 121 times, stopping in Hawaii more than I can count.

January, 2022, just after Christmas, will find me flying back to the Philippines for my 122nd crossing. God willing and Covid-19 allowing. I will leave my home in Connecticut for my flight out of JFK on Philippine Airlines to Manila. The non-stop flight will take around seventeen hours. Quick efficient travel, bring a good book, watch numerous movies, eat two or three times, sleep and then you are there. No fuss, no muss, no bother. Get on in New York, get off in Manila. Why then do I long for those times when it took such effort to get anywhere? The answer is easy. Everything was heightened; the sights, sounds, smells, and above all, the savoring of the voyage. It was more an adventure.

In old-age, I am however, resigned to the fact that while somethings do remain the same, others do not. The house on Ann Street in Little Falls still stands and snow falls on it every winter, but H.P. Snyder, my great-grandfather, is long-gone: he and his passenger ship travel assigned to history.

Jessie Snyder Thompson Huberty is a member of the Little Falls Historical Society.

Personal and societal beliefs and principles certainly change with time. Sometimes people are shocked or amazed to hear stories of people or events from the past, yet these tales may not be so difficult to comprehend if we’re able to empathize, and put ourselves back into that situation and moment in history.

PRE-WAR

John Frazier Sr, 1944

It takes a special type of person to join the military today to defend our country. One recruiter has stated that only 0.4% of our young Americans enlist. In that context, many of us may find it difficult, or even inconceivable to go back in our minds to 1943, to the middle of World War II, when our very freedom was being seriously threatened on two fronts by the Axis powers, mainly Germany, Japan, and Italy. My father was a student at Plattsburg State Teachers College (as it was known then) and was in the Army reserve program. After completing 3 ½ years at the college, he enlisted in the Army Air Force (the Air Force didn’t become a separate branch until 1947) to become a bombardier on the Consolidated B-24 Liberator, a 4-engine propeller driven bomber using the controversial Norden bombsight. The controversy was that the bombsight was highly technical, yet somewhat inaccurate; while its manufacturer claimed it could drop a bomb into a barrel from 10,000 ft., our bombardiers had many difficulties at times even coming close to their targets. Before the war began, the Germans had access to the Norden’s blueprints, yet rejected it for a simpler, yet more effective bombsight.

After graduation from bombardier school in Nevada, my father was sent to Shipdham, England, where he served in the 44th Bomb Group, 66th Squadron, of the Eighth Air Force. In one more incident that may be foreign to the thinking of so many today, my father’s first (and only) flight on Dec. 4, 1944 did not require a bombardier, so he requested that the pilot bump one of the waist gunners on the plane so that he could take that man’s place instead on that mission. The plane was never able to complete its mission. One engine on the left side was hit by flak, and the other quit after mechanical trouble. The pilot turned around to head back home, and the bombs and most extraneous weight was dropped in farmers’ fields. Altitude dropped from 12,000 to 8,000 ft., and they flew almost 200 miles without problem, but as they got 50 miles from the Rhine River, they started to receive more flak, and the plane was approached by six ME-109 German fighter planes. The pilot gave the “bail out” order. Two crew members perished, six others, including my father, became prisoners of war, and one was listed as missing. Had my father been up in the nose of the plane, where the bombardier is normally located, he also would have been killed that day.

B-24 Liberator

CAPTURE

My father was knocked unconscious for about five minutes when hitting the ground after parachuting from the plane. When he came to, he had already been stripped of his watch, pistol, money, survival kit, and anything else the Nazi soldiers wanted. By the time of his first serious interrogation, he was amazed to discover that the Nazis already knew the number of his plane, the names, ranks, and ID numbers of all of the crew members, as well as all of my father’s personal information. Needless to say, they were extremely efficient, and wanted to make sure that each prisoner knew that.

After a few stays at temporary detention centers with some rather unpleasant living conditions, the crew began their trek by train to permanent internment at Stalag Luft I near Barth, a small town on the Baltic Sea. While traveling to Barth, the POWs discovered that their guards were their life-lines and their friends, because the guards were the only protection they had from angry German civilians. At one point, civilians were throwing rocks at the POWs passing through.

I read the diary of another waist gunner and POW on that flight who was also imprisoned at Stalag Luft I, as well as other material regarding life in that prison camp. I’ve watched my father’s interview with Hector Allen, and read my father’s POW diary, and I can convincingly state that my father, for whatever reason, downplayed life as a prisoner of war as “no big deal”  in his interview with Mr. Allen. While conditions cannot be compared to incidents like the Bataan Death March, he certainly never wanted to talk about his POW experience, which only verifies that it was difficult. There was a standing order in camp that if a POW left the barracks during an air raid, he was to be shot on sight by the guards. My father witnessed these shootings. He spent time in solitary. The normal diet was two slices of toast lightly covered with jam with ersatz coffee for breakfast, two slices of toast lightly covered with oleo with ersatz coffee for lunch, and turnip soup for supper. If they were lucky, on good days there was some horse meat in the soup! During the last three months of the war, when the Nazis became desperate, these food rations and medical supplies were cut.  Life in Stalag Luft I may not have been as bad as some of the other atrocities that we’re familiar with, but it wasn’t a walk in the park, either. Life as a POW was merciless. “When do I go home?” “Will I ever go home?” “There are rumors that the Nazis will gun us down, just like they have with other POWs. They wouldn’t do that, would they?” “How much more captivity can we take?” “We’re beginning to die of malnutrition and starvation. Who will be next?” “How many more of us?” As an historical footnote, after the camp was liberated by the Russians, a typewritten copy of a death sentence was found for every prisoner in the camp. The Nazis sought retribution, using the logic that the air corps was responsible for the deaths of German civilians. Life in prison camp was like having a spring implanted inside your gut, and that spring tightened just a little more each day. Military discipline was a necessity within the prisoners, because every day was a test of mental strength and endurance. Not every man was able to withstand the pressure.

LIBERATION

History books tell us that the Russian army liberated Stalag Luft I on May 1, 1945, but the prisoners who were there have a different version of the story. Although Russian forces were approaching the camp, the German Commandant had orders to move the camp to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Russians. On April 30th, the Senior American Officer had several conferences with the Commandant, and told him that the prisoners would not move unless force was used. To put this in perspective, this was the day that Hitler committed suicide. It was obvious to all that the war in Europe was over and the Germans had been defeated. The Commandant agreed to avoid bloodshed. At about 10:00 that evening, the guards turned out all of the lights and marched out of the camp, leaving the gate unlocked. Once again, the unarmed prisoners were placed in a position of fear, as they needed protection from any Germans – military and civilian – from entering the premises. Negotiations for food and protection were made with the Russians, and within a week, evacuation had begun.

LIFE AFTER THE WAR

Like so many other members of The Greatest Generation, my father returned home, resumed his education, finishing up his Bachelor’s Degree and continuing to get a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration. He also took courses, but never completed work, on his doctoral degree. He and his wife, who was also in the education field, settled in Little Falls and raised five children. Mr. Frazier enjoyed 34 years as an elementary school principal within the Little Falls Central School district, and was active in various civic organizations.

John Frazier, Jr. is a member of the Little Falls Historical Society.

The Little Falls Lock 17 Dedication Celebration of 1916

Angela Harris

Will Go Down in History:  Historical Pageant and Lift Lock Celebration Greatest Ever Held in Mohawk Valley. July 4, 1916

The Little Falls Journal and Courier may be forgiven for the hyperbole of its banner headline and sub heading on July 4, 1916. The overflowing pride of the language reflects the premise and themes of The Little Falls Historical Pageant and Lift Lock Celebration. The civic pageants of the first twenty years of the 20th century were testaments to civic pride and patriotism, and Little Falls was no slacker.

On June 30 and July 1, 1916, The City of Little Falls, New York, was decked out for a major celebration. The opening of the great Lift Lock was a high point in an era of growth and optimism that had included industrial expansion and population growth. Little Falls was a mill city, a center of the circular knitting industry in the country. With mills came workers, and in the twenty years between 1895 and 1915, the City’s population increased from 9,897 to 13,022. Many of these were immigrants or children of immigrants who had come to central New York for work in the factories. The 1910 census listed 7,246 as either foreign-born or children of foreign born. But Little Falls had more than people and factories. The city had churches and schools, an active YMCA, theaters, a hospital and a nursing school, as well as parks and a busy commercial district, stylish homes for the wealthy and rooming houses and tenements for mill workers.

Little Falls had a lot to be proud about in its history as the lift lock (touted as the tallest in the world) launched a new era for the community, and the leaders of the city chose to mount two days of festivities to mark the occasion. The program began on Friday, June 30, with the arrival of Governor Charles Seymour Whitman at 1 P.M. aboard the Empire State Express which stopped at Little Falls for the convenience of the governor. He was accompanied by his military secretary, the State Engineer and Surveyor, the Superintendent of Public Works, The Deputy State Comptroller and Deputy Comptroller, as well as dignitaries from throughout the state and as far away as Chicago.

The party convened with invited guests at the Little Falls Country Club where Congressman H. P. Snyder hosted. About 200 guests enjoyed a “most palatable and appetizing luncheon.”

At 2 P.M. an automobile parade escorted the Governor to the Pageant Grounds located near the current Veterans Field. There Mayor Abram Zoller introduced the governor to launch the public events. “Ladies and Gentlemen: –We have come together to witness a pageant of history.”  At 2:30, Whitman spoke. “In keeping with the grandeur of the occasion,” he began, “It is proper and altogether fitting that the Governor of the state should have some part in this celebration that marks the opening of the largest single lift lock in all the world. The Mohawk Valley and the people of the Mohawk Valley have played no unimportant role in the development of New York, and the achievements that you celebrate today are in many respects the very achievements that have earned for us the proud title of the Empire State.” Both men praised the city and the people involved in the planning and execution of the great event. And the pomp and speeches left no doubt about the seriousness and significance of the festivities.

The pageant was presented at 3 on Friday and again at 3 on Saturday after a late morning “Civic and Industrial Parade.”

For all the dignitaries and self-importance of the vision of Little Falls presented that weekend, the Historical Pageant was the jewel in the crown. Historical pageants had been a part of American life from early on. They had evolved through several centuries, but perhaps reached their peak in the first 20 years of the 20th century. Anyone who has seen “The Music Man,” either on stage or film, probably remembers the pseudo-Greek tableau that starred the mayor’s wife and the other society ladies of River City. The Little Falls Lock Pageant was a cousin of that fictional performance, but on a much grander scale. Typically the pageants included large numbers of citizens from the hundreds to the thousands depending on the sponsoring community. Cities such as Philadelphia and St. Louis mounted impressive events usually themed to idealize the origins, history, and accomplishments of the celebrated city. There was even an American Pageant Association that thought to standardize and encourage the pageant movement  by holding conferences and publishing a bulletin.

In order to understand the scale of these endeavors, it’s useful to look at the St. Louis pageant of 1914 which is often cited as the epitome of the pageant movement. At the time of this event, St. Louis had a population of just under 700,000. The pageant had a cast of 7,000, and the location was set up for an audience of 70,000 per performance, (Yes, the planners used the population as springboard for their decisions.) In fact, there were 4 performances with attendance at 75,000, 100,000, 90,000, and 90,000. For one rain out, 30,000 were turned away.

With numbers like these, Little Falls’ cast of just under 700 seems paltry. But remember, the population was just over 13,000. That would have translated to a cast of 40,000 in St. Louis—quite impressive.

Little Falls was no slouch in the world of pageants.  As part of the original two-day celebration, Little Falls presented an elaborate performance piece written by Josephine Wilhelm Hard of Buffalo. This Historical Pageant of the Mohawk Valley was presented under the auspices of the YWCA and YMCA with help from the Daughters of the Revolution and the Sons of Veterans. And a quick glance at the program reveals names that resonate even now: Feldmeier, Burrell, Dussault, Gilbert, Shall, Gowen, Van Valkenburg, Shephardson, Lansing, Zoller, Snyder, Van Allen,

These pageants glorified the history of the communities that sponsored them by placing current events in the context of the long history and pre-history of the featured cities. They were also interesting in their inclusion of “casts of thousands.” Local people from babes in arms to senior citizens participated in the active tableaux. Scenes from the past were performed with musical accompaniment while poetry provided the settings and explanation for the action.

The Little Falls Pageant was presented in eight “episodes” with a total of 545 individual roles along with 7 committees including 113 members and 12 episode directors, and 15 musicians. With 685 individual jobs in a city with a population of around 12,000 at the time, it was a major involvement. A re-creation of the original event would probably leave the show without enough people for an audience. Little Falls may no longer be able to assemble a cast of hundreds—too many other activities to engage the somewhat less populous community—but there is still no doubt that the canal and the lock have been integral to the life of Little Falls.

Each of the episodes was introduced by the character Father Time. The language is the language of 1916, complete with some word choices and attitudes that are no longer acceptable. And a close examination of the actors shows that there are few of the immigrants who arrived in the Mohawk Valley in the 25 years prior to the Canal dedication, except, or course, for the specifically Polish, Italian, and Slovak people who play themselves in Episode 8.

The eight scenes dramatize the history of Little Falls starting with the pre-history Glacial Period which featured the pot-holes found in the area. The second episode, “The Indian Period,” features Camp Fire Girls as “Indian Maidens,” and introduces the first “white men” to the region in the form of the “Black Coats” or Jesuits from France.

Episode 3, “The Dutch Period” presents cheerful boys and girls dancing as the Dutch people from Schenectady introduces dairy farming and the domestic life of the “White Man” to the native people. Episode 4 is the story of the “English and Palatine Period.” General Schuyler and “his Mohawk Indians” were followed by a delegation from the Palatinate.

Episode 5, “The Colonial Period” highlights William Johnson and his second wife, Molly Brant, a descendant of one of the Mohawks who had visited Queen Anne. This scene is designed to demonstrate the good relations between Johnson and the native people. Episode 6, “The Revolutionary Period,” is the story of the courage of General Herkimer in the Revolutionary War. Episode 7 is the “Period of Peace.” It represents the Mohawk River as the avenue of history in America. And Episode 8, called “The Period of Prosperity” begins with characters representing the thirteen colonies introduced by heralds who are joined by people from foreign lands “as all nationalities combine to make the real American.” As the pageant closes, a personification of Columbia “raises her flag and directs the cast and audience in singing ‘America’.” The Pageant ends with a grand march, Columbia, Uncle Sam and the States leading the way.

It’s unlikely that Little Falls will ever again see anything quite like “The 1916 Dedication Celebration,” but the spirit of community and pride endures in the Little Falls Canal Celebration, a week of fun and reunion for Little Falls in August each year. This year’s 33rd annual event begins on August 9.

Note:  Angela Harris is a member of the Little Falls Historical Society.

Flight

The writing was on the wall. Since there was no way of getting out of debt, much of it a result of illegal activities, Hadley Jones had a choice of, most likely, going to prison or to flee from Little Falls to parts unknown. His choice was to get out of town fast, with as much as he could. The exit was well planned.

Before everything “exploded,” Hadley went to Albany to meet an old friend from college days, Frank McLoughlin owner of the Globe Hotel at the corner of State and South Pearl streets. A letter from Jones to McLoughlin indicated that he needed money to leave the country and that he never could return to Little Falls again. In need of money, on April 11, 1901 Jones signed a bill of sale with McLoughlin for $1,350 ($46,500 in 2021) in exchange for his law library, personal effects, household goods, and his home on East Gansevoort Street. Additionally, McLoughlin received a bill of sale for $1,000 ($31,000 in 2021) in exchange for Hadley’s accounts against clients. When Jones’s foibles came to light, McLoughlin immediately went to Little Falls, collected what was legally his, returned to Albany and sold them at a significant profit.

With the new-found money, Mr. and Mrs. Jones went to New York City where they stayed at the swanky Grand Hotel in mid-town lower Manhattan. While in New York City, Hadley sent his wife, Emily, on a whirlwind trip back to Little Falls to collect their belongings. She arrived in Little Falls late at night and departed by train back to New York City early the following morning with two large trunks of personal belongings in tow, never to be seen again.

To add insult to injury, when they checked out of the Grand Hotel, Hadley paid the bill with a check drawn on the Little Falls National Bank for $169 ($5,200 in 2021.) The check bounced – Hadley had no money in his account

How did the people in Little Falls react to this big-time thievery and subsequent flight? Not as bad as what one might think! The city was initially in an uproar over the disappearance of the ex-mayor under uncomplimentary circumstances. There was general regret in the city over the matter.

From the beginning, Hadley’s warmest friends felt he would return to Little Falls and clear up the mess. They were of the opinion he was “a good fellow.”  However, after two weeks on the lam, and the appearance of more forged mortgages, public opinion began to turn against him. His close friends remained staunch in their support – he had not “hurt” the general populace or the local banks.

As far as Emily was concerned, it was a completely different matter. She was never scorned. She elicited the greatest admiration by all, especially the women of Little Falls and Herkimer County, for her devotion and loyalty to her husband. She had lost her home and her fortune, yet she stuck by her man. No one really knows her part, if any, in the scandal. It was said she only found out about it after their flight to New York City. Was she merely the obedient wife?

Hadley Jones was disbarred from the office of attorney and counselor-at-law in proceedings in Rochester in late 1901. His mother, Maria Grove Jones, filed for bankruptcy in 1902, with much of her indebtedness due to her having endorsed several of her son’s fraudulent mortgages.

The Sunny Caribbean

Bankers from throughout the country, who had lost staggering amounts of money on the fraudulent loans, flocked to Little Falls to get a better understanding of the saga, and try to recoup as much of their losses as possible. A safe expert was brought in from New York City to open the safe in the National Bank of Herkimer County on South Ann Street. It was there the remaining counterfeit duplicate stock certificates were found.

But where had Hadley and Emily gone?  The National Banking Association hired the famous, world-wide Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency to find them. Their motto was: “We Never Sleep.” Reports filtered in that they had been sighted in Europe, South Africa, Argentina, and various countries in Central America. It appears though that Hadley had made his way from New York City to Honduras, a country in Central America that had no extradition treaty with the United States. He was untouchable!

Honduras was home to an infamous group of about one hundred swindlers, con-artists, scallywags, ex-bank presidents, former county treasurers, brokers, and municipal officials, all of whom were members of the notorious “Defaulters’ Club.” All had robbed lots of money. Although the members were well known by the Pinkertons, they could not be arrested for crimes committed in the United States.  Most of the fugitives lived in the capital, Tegucigalpa, while others lived in the smaller city of La Pimienta.  They lived lives of luxury. It was rumored, that while living there, Hadley was involved in the exporting of cocoa.

What about Emily? Local newspaper accounts on June 19, 1903 recorded that she was granted an absolute divorce from her husband, Hadley Jones, whereabouts unknown. The report went on to say she resumed her maiden name, Emily E. Neff. Problem is the initial report was in the Detroit newspapers without a mention of Hadley Jones. To bring more closure, it was widely reported that Hadley Jones died of a deadly “tropical jungle fever” in Honduras in 1903 – some say 1905.

End of The Story – Not Quite

Spokane, Washington is 2534 miles from Little Falls, New York, and 2892 miles from Tegucigalpa, Honduras (as the crow flies) and further away by boat. It was about as far away as one could get in the continental United States from Little Falls, New York. Spokane is where Emily E. Hughes moved to in 1903, soon to be followed by her husband, Richard H. Hughes. Richard had worked, in some capacity, in the booming mining communities of Rossland, British Columbia, Canada and Thunder Mountain, Idaho looking for gold. Some reports had him there as early as 1901. Think back to Hadley Jones’s interest in West Virginia mines back in the 1890s.

Emily worked as a secretary/clerk in the Spokane Department of Health. She must have had a responsible job since there are newspaper accounts of her appearing in court cases testifying on behalf of the department. She worked at the Department of Health from 1903 to 1912.

Richard H. Hughes, then nicknamed “Bliz,” had a varied career in Spokane. We do know that in 1907 he had a small insurance policy made out with Nelson Rust Gilbert of Little Falls as beneficiary. The Federal 1910 census shows him renting a home in Spokane at 430, Pine Street with Emily, his wife of 13 years. He was the assistant secretary of the Spokane Chamber of Commerce. Prior to 1910 he had worked on the news staff at the Spokane Daily Chronicle. Emily was still with the Health Department. He next went into a business partnership with Roscoe Couper to form the Northwest Storage & Transfer Company.  He sold his share of the company to Couper in 1912. Around this time Richard and Emily had a shop, “The Acme Letter Shop,” someplace in Spokane, most likely attended to by Emily.

The 1920 census lists Richard and Emily, still renting in Spokane, but now with a boarder. Richard was once again in the mining business in Thunder Mountain Idaho. In 1930, Richard was appointed a bailiff in Federal Judge J. Stanley Webster’s court, a position he retired from in 1933 at age 75. How ironic, a man who was a thief and evaded the law most of his life, retiring as a federal law enforcement official.

___________

Richard H. Hughes died in Spokane, after a three-day illness, at age 80 on Monday, March 21, 1938. His obituary said he was a native of New York State, and had come to Spokane around 1901. He was buried (some say cremated) from the Smith Funeral Home and the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Spokane, Washington. His obituary said he was widely known in Spokane, then a city of 120,000 people.

Emily E Hughes, widow of Richard H. Hughes, passed away in Spokane on May 24, 1941 at age 69 after an illness of three months. Her obituary indicated that she was born and reared in Philadelphia and was educated abroad. As with her husband, she was buried from the Smith Funeral Home and the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. No children or near relatives survived.

Searching the Spokane cemeteries on-line, I was not able to find where Richard and Emily Hughes were buried. I had the Smith Funeral Home in Spokane check through their records, but they could not find any burial location(s) for Richard or Emily Hughes. It turns out that they were not buried. A further check with the secretary at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Spokane revealed that Richard died of “angina pectoris” (heart attack) and Emily of a “cerebral hemorrhage” (stroke). The church records indicate that both Richard and Emily were cremated with no records of how or where their ashes were disposed. A search of unclaimed cremains handled by the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office since 1911 showed no entries for Richard or Emily Hughes. So where had their ashes gone?

What about the ashes ending up in Little Falls? A thorough check of the Church Street Cemetery records showed no Hadley Jones or Richard Hughes. The Jones family plot only has the remains of father Dewitt Jones (1912,) mother Maria Grove Jones (1917,) and brother Eugene Jones (1916.) A mystery continues.

The End

Was Richard H. Hughes really Hadley Jones?   All indications are the answer is definitely “Yes.” All the names and dates and places fit. Once he was in inescapable debt, Hadley devised an elaborate scheme to avoid jail, and pulled it off. His wife, Emily Neff Jones, remained true to him through thick and thin – loyal to the end. They died not wealthy, but people of modest means. And most telling that Richard Hughes was indeed Hadley Jones was his obituary. Richard H. Hughes’ parents are listed as Dewitt Hughes and Maria Grove Hughes. Hadley’s parents were Dewitt Jones and Maria Grove Jones!  Not a coincidence – he honored his parents. And finally, the picture of an older Richard Hughes in his obituary in Spokane, and one of young Mayor Hadley Jones in the Little Falls Evening Times are strikingly similar.

Did the people in Little Falls know what was really going on? Again, it appears that some of his closest friends and business acquaintances were aware of the situation, and they were in contact with him in Spokane. However, there was no mention in the Little Falls newspaper regarding Richard H. Hughes’ (Hadley’s) death.

Why would Richard H. Hughes in Spokane, Washington have taken out a $1,000 insurance policy ($27,000 in 2021) with the beneficiary Nelson Rust Gilbert in Little Falls, New York who was Hadley’s (Richard’s) former law partner and the best man at his wedding in 1897, if they had not been close friends at some point in their lives? Gilbert passed away in 1927, eleven years before Hughes (Jones), and the insurance policy passed on to his wife Mary Annette Gilbert and later to his daughter, A. Lillian Gilbert. Nelson Rust Gilbert, in his life-time, had become one of the wealthiest and most influential men in Little Falls, and was himself mayor of the city in 1920-1921.

Certainly, Hadley never came back to Little Falls, but I wonder if any of his friends ever visited him in Spokane?

What would Hadley’s and Emily’s lives been like if the Sutcliffe Brewery saga had not played out the way it did?

Was Hadley Jones a saint or a sinner?  You be the judge.

Louis Baum is a member of the Little Falls Historical Society

A Star is Born

Everybody enjoys a “rag to riches“ story especially if it involves a local boy or girl. Think about John Riccardo. John was the son of hard-working Italian immigrant parents. His father had a shoe store on John Street in addition to working long hours in a local bicycle factory. John rose to become president and chairman of the board of Chrysler Corporation. His brother, Dr. James Riccardo, was a professor at Utica College. But this story is about another local school-boy, Hadley Jones, who was the son of poor farmers, Dewitt and Maria Grove Jones, of Newville, a hamlet just southeast of Little Falls.

Born on November 12, 1857, Hadley was one of three sons. He must have showed promise as a youngster since he was sent into town to attend the Little Falls Academy; from which he graduated. He continued his education and went on and graduated from Albany Law School in 1882. Hadley then returned to Herkimer County to practice law. He was said to be quite brilliant, a great orator, and skilled in all aspects of the law. He was a mover and a shaker. Much was expected of him, and by shear force of character he was about to make himself into a social and political leader in the community.

A Rise to Power

Jones first read law in Herkimer in the office of Hon. Robert Earl, former Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals. He was a favorite of Judge Earl, and in 1882 he married the judge’s niece Henrietta Wilkinson. That same year, he moved to Little Falls which was fast becoming the manufacturing center in the upper Mohawk valley. He joined with George Crumby to form the firm of Crumby & Jones with offices on Main Street at the current location of Van Meter & Van Meter. The firm was quite successful, and Jones was earning the reputation, not only as a great lawyer, but as being a shrewd real estate investor. His talents were not overlooked by the owners of the major businesses and factories in Little Falls. Hadley also had talents outside the practice of law. In 1886, he was one of fifteen original members of the Elks Club in Little Falls, the first village in the United States to be granted an Elks charter.

Things began to unravel a bit when George Crumby died a premature death in 1887. Jones continued practicing law on his own, retaining the name of the law firm. His marriage to Henrietta Wilkinson ended in divorce in 1888. Jones, now a single man, pushed on with his practice, and met with continuing approval by the aristocracy of Little Falls’ business, social, and political community. He was elected a supervisor in 1889.

As the “Gay ‘90s” arrived, Little Falls was a vibrant place to live and work in. With the arrival of immigrants from Europe to man the factories, the population increased to nearly 9,000 people, an increase of 27% in just a decade. Visitors to Little Falls included former heavyweight boxing champions John L. Sullivan and Jack Dempsey who appeared in plays at the Chronkite and Skinner opera houses. The first hospital opened in Little Falls, Homer Snyder produced his first bicycle, the first automobile went through Little Falls, and David H. Burrell shipped his newly invented dairy processing equipment to New Zealand.

A symbol of Hadley Jones’s increased stature in the community occurred in 1893 when the steam launch “Victor Adams” was set afloat on the Mohawk River renamed as the “Hadley Jones.” The twelve-passenger launch would ferry partygoers on pleasure excursions to picnic grounds up and down the river.

The Sutcliffe Brewery Saga

It is said that Hadley Jones’s money problems began shortly after he was appointed “receiver” to oversee the 1894 bankruptcy proceedings of the Sutcliffe Brewery in Auburn, New York. The property was valued at $150,000 ($4.75 million in 2021,) but on the day the brewery was to be sold he formed a syndicate and bought the property for $60,000 ($1.9 million in 2021.) Expectations were bright since the brewery was a big money maker. He applied his receiver fee of $6,000 toward his share of $35,000 ($1.1 million in 2021) of the purchase price and borrowed the remainder of the money from well-heeled friends in Little Falls.

The business reopened with the former owner, John Sutcliffe, hired as brew master. Having lost his sanity because of the bankruptcy, Sutcliffe placed chemicals in the brewing vats, which was not discovered until 30,000 barrels of beer had been distributed to customers. The good will of the company was destroyed, and the newly formed concern was ruined. However, Jones still owed the money he had borrowed at high interest rates. Although Jones owned significant real estate in Little Falls, all this property was highly mortgaged and could not be turned into ready cash to pay his creditors. As judgements began to accumulate, Jones filed for bankruptcy protection and had to conduct business in his mother’s name.

A Way Out of Debt

As an axiom – it is probably easier to get into debt than it is to get out of debt. Hadley Jones found this to be true. There are several ways to get out of debt. One is to work hard, expand your financial horizons, be frugal and gradually pay the debt down. Jones teamed with Nelson Rust Gilbert, the son of a prominent Little Falls factory owner, to form the law firm of Jones & Gilbert. A venture in Old Forge then put Jones in union with the corporate elite of Little Falls. Business and income improved, but he was still in the need for money.

In 1895, a group of Little Falls tycoons, headed by Victor Adams, purchased significant parcels of land in and around Old Forge and the Fulton chain of lakes under the name of “The Old Forge Company.” They named Hadley Jones as the secretary of the conglomerate. Others involved included J. J. Gilbert, H. P. Snyder, Albert Story, Capt. John Crowley, and Titus Sheard, all familiar names in Little Falls. To cement their interest in the venture, the group appointed two Little Falls cronies as general business manager and superintendent to run everyday activities. The Old Forge investors thought so much of the Little Falls people that they named streets in their village after Adams, Gilbert and Sheard. It is interesting to note that Hadley Jones did not issue any reports for the annual meetings of the company in 1897, 1898, and 1899. Was he hiding something? Despite a step upward in status, Jones was still in need of money.

Another way to get out of debt was to marry into money. In January 1897 Hadley Jones became engaged to Emily E. Neff from Philadelphia. Emily was the daughter of Seymour Neff a wealthy Philadelphia merchant. Her mother Sarah Story Neff had ties to Little Falls – Sarah’s father was Albert J. Story Sr. the long-time president of the National Bank of Herkimer County. Quite possibly the couple had met during a visit by the Neff family to Little Falls.

Emily’s mother died in 1893 and left her $40,000 ($1.25 million in 2021) including shares of stock in both the National Bank of Herkimer County (70) and the Little Falls National Bank (24.) She was an extraordinarily rich young lady. Emily was a fixture on the society pages of the Philadelphia newspapers, and made trips to Europe.

Hadley and Emily, fourteen years his younger, were married on June 2, 1897 at St. Mary’s Protestant Episcopal Church in Philadelphia with his law partner, Nelson Rust Gilbert, as best man and J. J. Gilbert II and Lorenzo Bucklin, Little Falls friends, as ushers. Nelson and J. J. were sons of J. J. Gilbert possibly the richest man In Little Falls. The married couple made their home in Little Falls where they were quite popular.

In 1898 the Republican party drafted an increasingly popular Hadley Jones to run for mayor of Little Falls. The party was quite hopeful since the strong Republican districts in the city had shown the greatest gains in registration since the last election. On November 7, 1898, Jones was elected mayor defeating Dr. Charles H. Glidden, local physician and Health Officer, 1137 to 986. At that time, Little Falls mayors were elected for a one-year term.

Unrelated to his public service, in the same year he constructed a building at the southwest corner of Albany and Second streets to house the Little Falls police and fire departments under a long-term lease agreement with the city. To get the money for construction he committed his first forgery. Hadley forged the names on mortgages of several elderly, wealthy, female clients who lived in distant cities throughout New York State.

His term in office seemed to be otherwise uneventful. It was reported that Jones spent much of his time in New York City, involved in the settlement of the various claims against Alfred Dodge. In 1900 he returned to his law practice and married life, living with Emily at 616 East Gansevoort Street.

The Film Flam

From outward appearances everything seemed to be going quite well with the Joneses. However, what was being seen by the public was the tip of the iceberg. What was not seen what was “below the surface.” Hadley Jones, for various reasons, was greatly in debt. Later reflections showed he liked to gamble, play the ponies, and had made bad investments. In order to get out from under this debt he had speculated, and then invested heavily, in coal mines and oil fields in West Virginia which proved to be worthless. At this point in time, Jones was essentially penniless.

The question was how to get out of debt and still have the appearance of affluence? His solution was with his wife’s stocks which they had on deposit in both the National Bank of Herkimer County and the Little Falls National Bank. He did not want to use the money from the stocks deposited in the banks, but he had an ingenious ruse. Taking the good certificates, he had a fake stock certificate book made by a printing house in Buffalo, New York. It was exactly the same as the original, including the stock numbers.

Hadley then used seventeen of the fake certificates as collateral for loans from banks from Providence, Rhode Island to Ashtabula, Ohio, and several small banks throughout New York State. On these fake certificates he forged the names of William G. Milligan [President] and Albert Story Jr. [Cashier] who was Emily’s uncle. When these banks called the Little Falls banks they were told “Yes, we do have these stocks in our possession as collateral.” The cash loan from the Rhode Island bank alone was for $8,000 ($250,000 in 2021,) and a Troy, New York bank another $5,000 ($155,000 in 2021) both backed up by bogus stock certificates. All told, the value of the forged certificates was estimated to be as high as $100,000 ($3.1 million in 2021.) It is interesting to note that none of the forged certificates were against the two Little Falls banks. So, in one sense, the people of Little Falls were not directly hurt by Jones’s bank transgressions.

However, there were still another scam. Upon investigation, it was found that Hadley Jones had issued fraudulent mortgages for many properties in and around Little Falls which he controlled in various ways. Jones took out second mortgages, issued with forged names, on property to obtain cash without the property owners being aware until they received payment requests from the city treasurer’s office. Property owners blamed the county clerk’s office in Herkimer for not noticing the forgeries on the second mortgages filed by Jones.

Jones was also a heavy debtor to many individuals including those who had loaned him money going back to the failed Sutcliffe Brewery days. He continued to pay interest on the “loans” and mortgages promptly to all holders of the numerous notes so as not to cause alarm. These false mortgages, and Jones’s personal loans amounted to another $20,000 ($620,000 in 2021.) Unlike the forged certificates for loans from distant banks and personal loans from friends, these misdeeds did hurt a small number of people in Little Falls. In unescapable debt, what to do next?

While driving down Flint Avenue in my hometown of Little Falls the other day, I happened to look to my right and for no apparent reason, my mind flashed back to the 1950’s.

Ray Lenarcic at the Veterans Memorial in Ward Square.

I recalled in vivid detail searching for diamonds on a rocky hillside behind the Ave with my buddy Rog Kopp. The city is known for the diamond-like quartz located within its boundaries. Later that day, we changed into our uniforms pursuant to performing in the marching band’s halftime performance during another losing football game. These memories, and others to come as I drove on, reminded me of my incredibly blessed childhood-truly halcyon days. Blue skies and golden sunshine but for one black cloud which continues to hover over the city, and always will.

I was born on September 11, 1942, a date that lives in infamy (not the year, the day-month). Actually, another date living in infamy occurred about the same time I was conceived, December 7, 1941. Pearl Harbor. The days when I was learning how to walk and, to everyone’s later chagrin, talk, were not so golden or blessed for the “Boys of ’43.”

I’m sure that one of the times my Aunt Mary was pushing my stroller down West Main Street, Phil Spine Jr. passed us by on his way home. That Halloween, while hundreds of kids were trick-or-treating or dunking for apples at Roa’s backyard party, the handsome, debonair, gregarious kid whose ‘43 yearbook quote read “write me as one who loves his fellowmen” was killed in Italy. His father was my dad’s boss.

Upstairs from Phil lived Marion Bailey, my wonderful, kind fifth grade teacher at Church Street Elementary School. Her only child, Vernon, a star on the gridiron, was a low-keyed kid whose yearbook quote stated “A manly chap if ever there was one.” Mrs. Bailey’s Christmas Eves could never have been the same after her beloved boy was killed in Belgium on December 24, 1944. Sadly and ironically, he wouldn’t be the only victim of warfare from the city to die on that date.

One of my fondest youthful memories is playing first trumpet with high school band director Don Musella and the incredible Leo Potrikus in the Little Falls Military Band’s Wednesday night concerts in our two beautiful parks.

Included in those reminiscences is the legendary master of ceremonies, Mr. Bow Tie, Clarence Hotaling, along with clarinetist Joe Vespasiano, arguably Mohawk Central’s most popular teacher. Joe V, who served in and survived the war, was good friends with Nellis Jones. When my mother grocery shopped at the American Store she inevitably passed by Jonesy and Joey V stacking shelves. A gifted thespian, musician and class officer, Nellis’ “last will and testament” in the yearbook read-“I leave with my Klock.” That’d be his fetching fellow grad, Helen Klock. During the summer of ’43, when I was splashing around in my “baby pool,” they were married. Shortly thereafter he embarked for England. Christmas would never be the same for the Jones and Klock families and the brown-eyed beauty; Jonesy’s ship was blown up on December 20 on the English Channel.

Eddie Wroblewski grew up in the “Gut,” Furnace Street. He and his buds played games in the same park that me and my buds would a few years later. Edzu was an extremely intelligent, personable kid. According to his niece, Fran Teall, he could recite poetry in Polish at the age of three. The yearbook tells us that he belonged to the band, orchestra and Glee Club. His quote-“Had I been present at creation, I would have given some useful hints for better ordering the universe .” On January 12, 1945, somewhere in France, Eddie W’s bright light was extinguished.

Walter “Tapir” Sheehan’s picture never appeared in the yearbook alongside his former classmates because he dropped out of school. According to his niece Patty Sheehan Vail, a former schoolmate of mine, after the Tape convinced his mom to sign for him, he enlisted in the Marines. He joined up to “help get the war over.” In making his valiant contribution to that end, he earned a Purple Heart for wounds suffered on Gilbert Island, wounds which didn’t slow him down. In June of ’44 on Saipan, Walt was hit again- this time suffering wounds which would still his noble heart. On September 24. His birthday. He was 21.

The early 1950’s were important years for me in many ways.

While I was enjoying a particularly memorable birthday—big surprise party-on 9/11/50- the city was mourning the loss of Tommy Ochar, KIA in Korea the day before. In the late spring and early summer of 1951 when I was experiencing the joy of playing my first organized baseball in the Grasshopper League with the Jantosciak brothers, Jim Waltamath and “Shammy” Krchniak, Clinton Avery and Bill Grogan were making the supreme sacrifice in that same war. For me, Christmas 1951 was especially memorable as we welcomed to the family our first puppy, a red-haired Cocker Spaniel we unoriginally named Ginger. Five days later, Walt Bobak was KIA. The first highlight of my baseball career occurred in the summer of ’55 when my VFW team won the coveted Little League championship, defeating our archrival Orioles in extra-innings. Six months earlier, Milan Mosny’s plane went down. The West Point grad’s brother, Danny, graduated with me. Two wars, ten sons of the Rock City gone and, but for family and friends, too soon forgotten.

Unfortunately, that “ole debil war” wasn’t done wreaking its havoc upon the hearts and minds of the city’s residents. It had two more kicks in the gut left. Marine SSgt. Joseph “Stash” Zawtocki, Jr. Stash was one of the Furnace Street Gang. The blond-haired, blue-eyed, rosy-cheeked kid was a tough, never-give-up fireball who endured the playful abuse of us elders, often coming back for more. While I was reaching my adulthood, learning the ins and outs of the teaching profession, my friend was dying by inches while fighting in a war which never should have been fought. Given his nature, I wasn’t surprised when told that he suffered 684 days of torture at the hands of his captors in South Vietnam before his noble heart finally stopped beating on Christmas Eve, 1969. If you’re ever in Washington, D.C., stop by that resting place of heroes, Arlington National, and pay him your respects. Cpl. Donald A. Coffin. The wife of my late best friend and HCCC colleague Gary Wayne Ruff, Karen, was first cousins with Donnie. She remembered him for his strawberry-blond hair, good looks and rambunctious nature. Little Falls Historical Society member Dave Krutz played football with the Murphy Road resident who, like Walt Sheehan before him, had his mother sign the papers enabling him to enlist in the Army. After basic, the personable fun-lover set off for Southeast Asia to “do his duty to God and country.” On January 18th, 1968 his duty, tragically, was done. He was 18.

One of old lady nature’s more unusual phenomena is the sun shower-a veritable contradiction-bright sunshine and pouring down rain-at the same time. As I was passing by a sacred piece of ground in Eastern Park which Hunger Coalition leader and former City Treasurer Dave Petkovsek calls The Shrine, an area where inside a protective fence stand four small stone monuments donated by Herkimer County Community College students and a larger one graced by the incredible artwork of another local, Mark Verri, each honoring veterans, including combat nurses, a sun shower suddenly began raining down. And in the context of that trip down memory lane I’d just taken, I thought-how appropriate. The sun and blue skies representing the joys of life, and the raindrops symbolic of its sadness.

“These are the times that try men’s souls.” So begins Thomas Paine’s December 23, 1776 epic treatise “The Sunshine Patriot,” written at perhaps the darkest point of the American Revolution, George Washington’s half-starving, dis-spirited troops were in their Valley Forge winter quarters.

The Battle of Oriskany was some eight months in the future, the crucial alliance with France further off still. The suffering, death, and destruction endured by our Mohawk Valley ancestors began when the British launched their 1777 three-prong campaign.

To further quote Paine: “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country, but he who stands by it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

Our Patriot ancestors were neither sunshine patriots nor summer soldiers. The purpose of our local Patriots Day observance is to honor their memory on the third Saturday in May each year.

BACKGROUND OF PATRIOTS DAY

Acting on a recommendation from the Little Falls Historical Society, then Mayor Robert Peters issued a 2010 City proclamation establishing a Patriots Day observance in Little Falls. Paired with Memorial Day, Patriots Day thus establishes a period of time each year honoring the memory of those who served.

Patriots Day was first established in Massachusetts in 1938 to be observed each year on the third Monday in April in commemoration of the 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first clashes between British and American forces in the Revolutionary War. This is a regional holiday in New England.

Anyone who has attended Patriots Day activities in Boston can attest to the emotions that are raised. The viewing of the somber bagpipe-led procession as it snakes its way through downtown Boston paying tribute at cemetery gravesites of Revolutionary War heroes with rifle salutes is a moving experience.

 COMPARISON OF SACRIFICE

When the war began, there were around 10,000 people living in the Mohawk Valley; during the war, between 2500 and 3000 Loyalists left our region, mostly for Canada. Around 3000 Patriots abandoned their farms to seek safety elsewhere, and around 1000 others were killed. Only 3000 stuck it out. No sunshine patriots or summer soldiers in that number!

American school children should learn about Lexington, Concord, Bunker Hill, the ride of Paul Revere, and the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but they should also know about the all-important role that the Mohawk Valley played in the Revolution.

Our area was at greater risk from 1777-81 than any other region of the country. In fact, the Tory and Indian attack at the Little Falls gristmill occurred in 1782, some eight months AFTER the war had ended. More on that later.

The case for a local Patriots Day is compelling. Our region experienced a vicious civil war during the Revolution often pitting neighbor against neighbor and even relatives against one another. Hatred and vengeance ran deep. The stakes could not have been higher. The massacres at Cherry Valley and Andrustown provide stark testimony.

Loyalists or Tories remained loyal to England, fighting to keep their land and protect their families. Patriots also fought for land, family, and freedom and independence. The most basic of human instincts drove these divisions.

The primary British goal in conducting destructive military raids in the Mohawk Valley region was to wipe out one of the major food supply regions for American forces. Dozens of grain-filled buildings and gristmills were destroyed throughout this five-year period. Our area was  the breadbasket of the colonies.

LITTLE FALLS HISTORICAL SOCIETY SPONSORS PATRIOTS DAY PROGRAMS

Each year, the Little Falls Historical Society honors Patriots Day by hosting an event at a local historic site. These events have the twin purpose of honoring the service and patriotism of our ancestors and drawing attention to some of our oldest and most important local historic structures and burial grounds.

Each Patriots Day program includes a series of short addresses about key local events and people from our Revolutionary War period. The Astenrogen Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution places a cemetery wreath. Dr. Oscar Stivala plays “Taps” and Robert Schmelcher adds musical accompaniment.

The first ceremony in 2010 was held in Yellow Church Cemetery where approximately fifty Revolutionary War veterans are buried. Many of these veterans fought at the pivotal Battle of Oriskany under General Nicholas Herkimer. A little time spent in this cemetery induces a sense of awe and gratitude.

In the late 18th century, the small settlement at Riemensnyder’s Bush was clustered in the area near where Yellow Church Cemetery is today; a gristmill and fort stood nearby. On April 3, 1780, some sixty Tories and Indians raided this settlement, burned the gristmill, killed some number of Patriots, and took nineteen prisoners away. Survivors sought safety by moving southward into the valley. Revenge-filled hatred drove both sides.

General Nicholas Herkimer historic site cemetery with obelisk on left.

General Nicholas Herkimer historic site cemetery with obelisk on left.

General Nicholas Herkimer Home (1764) was the site of the 2011 program, its cemetery’s 60-foot obelisk (1896) provided the backdrop. Revolutionary War reenactors fired off rifle salutes.

Fort Herkimer Church (1753-67), the oldest still-standing building in Herkimer County, and its cemetery were the sites of the 2012 Patriots Day event. The building stood as a fortress where locals often sought refuge during both the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars.

School children learn about the April 18, 1775 midnight ride of Paul Revere warning residents of Lexington and Concord about the approach of British troops. The next day produced clashes between those troops and Massachusetts Minutemen.

It is but a minor stretch to compare Adam Helmer’s September 16, 1778 thirty-mile heroic run from South Edmeston to Fort Dayton with stops at Schuyler Lake and Andrustown warning all where he passed about the approach of Joseph Brant and 200 Tories and Indians with Paul Revere’s midnight ride. Many fled to safety at Fort Dayton; Helmer’s heroic run with Indians in hot pursuit saved an untold number of Patriots.

In 2013, Patriots Day was observed at Indian Castle Church (1769), the pre-Revolutionary War Anglican missionary church built by Sir William Johnson for Mohawk Indians.  The church is backdropped by old cemetery tombstones. The fact that this structure survived an arson’s attempt to burn it down in the 1970’s is a great story itself.

During this ceremony, Little Falls Historical Society members were the surprised recipients of a New York State Legislature proclamation presented by then Assemblyman Marc Butler and then Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney honoring the Society for its ongoing efforts promoting the contributions of our ancestors towards our nation’s independence.

In 2014, Patriots Day was observed at Snells Bush Church and cemetery in Manheim. The present church (1850) is the third structure to sit on this site. The first church (1757) was burned by Loyalists during the Revolutionary War.

Each year on July 4th we celebrate the 1776 issuance of the Declaration of Independence. After affixing his name to the Declaration of Independence in 1776, Benjamin Franklin stated: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we will all hang separately.”

The same fate awaited the members of the Palatine Committee of Safety after drafting and signing their Declaration of Independence-like document on May 21, 1775 at Louck’s Tavern in Stone Arabia fourteen months earlier. Franklin, his fellow Founding Fathers, and these like-minded Palatines were all traitors in the eyes of the British.

New York State historic marker nearby Yellow Church Cemetery.

New York State historic marker nearby Yellow Church Cemetery.

Patriots Day 2015 was observed in Little Falls at the former Masonic Temple (1915). This French Medieval-like building dominates a three-street intersection where both the Old Stone School House (1796) and Octagon Church monument are also located. This intersection is saturated with local historical significance.

Our 2016 Patriots Day observance was at the Herkimer Reformed Church (1835). The burial grounds alongside the church contain the remains of a number of Revolutionary War veterans.

The Battle of West Canada Creek took place in September 1781 on the eastern creek rim between present-day East Herkimer and Kast Bridge. Patriot forces under Lieutenant Solomon Woodworth set out from Fort Dayton which was located near the present Herkimer Reformed Church and stumbled into a trap set by a much greater number of Indians and Tories; the short battle left twenty-two dead Patriots and nine more were taken prisoner.

Historic Trinity (1807) in Fairfield was both the first Episcopal Church constructed north of the Mohawk Valley and the site of the 2017 Patriots Day observance. The nearby cemetery  contains the remains of early Fairfield residents, including some Revolutionary War veterans.

Retreating Tory forces under Major Ross and Walter Butler would have passed only a few miles to the north of Historic Trinity in October 1781 after conducting their final raids in the Mohawk Valley and battling Patriot forces at Johnstown. One day later, Butler met his fate at the hands of Patriot forces under Colonel Marinus Willett where Hinkley reservoir is presently located.

Paines Hollow United Methodist Church (1840) was the site of the 2018 Patriots Day observance.  Adam Helmer’s run with Indians in constant pursuit passed nearby this site and the 1778 Andrustown Massacre occurred only a few miles to the south.

For the tenth Patriots Day observance in 2019, the Historical Society returned the event to Little Falls at Emmanuel Episcopal Church (1835). The church was the first single denominational church in Little Falls and it is the oldest still standing church in the city.

To further underscore the Revolutionary War long period of Patriot v. Loyalist conflict and death, the 1782 attack at the Little Falls gristmill in June 1782 occurred some eight months after the British surrendered to American forces at Yorktown on October 19, 1781.

The gristmill was attacked and destroyed by some 300 Loyalists and Indians; some number of Patriots were killed. Gristmill owners Gresham Skinner and Frank Cox survived by hiding under the water wheel, Daniel Petrie died a gruesome death at the hands of the attackers. Local hatred still ran deep even after Revolutionary War hostilities had ended elsewhere.

The Little Falls Historical Society installed a NYS blue and yellow historic marker in 2020 near the site of this attack. The marker is located at the end of West Mill Street.

CONCLUSION

Having been a speaker at each of these Patriots Day observances over the years has been a privilege and honor. Historic structures and cemeteries bring on a combined feeling of historic solitude, awe, and thankfulness. As we stand before the graves of Revolutionary War era Mohawk Valley inhabitants, we are touched by the legacies of our forebears who so impacted the course of both local and national events during the Revolutionary War era.

The Little Falls Historical Society encourages the various groups of dedicated volunteers who caretake these important historic structures and sites to observe Patriots Day each year in whatever manner and fashion that is appropriate to their facility.

NOTE: Unfortunately, due to COVID, no Patriots Day events took place in either 2020 or 2021. Plans are in the works to host a 2022 event at the Norway Historical Museum.

This article was written by Jeffrey Gressler and published on May 10, 2021 for the 2021 Little Falls Historical Society Museum Writing Series.

“For it will not be believed that such a force as Great Britain has employed for eight years in this country would be baffled in their plan of subjugating it by numbers infinitely less, composed of men often times half-starved and always in rags, without pay and experiencing at times every species of distress which human nature is capable of undergoing.”     ~  George Washington ~

(letter from GW to Nathaniel Greene – February 6, 1783)

With all the buzz about COVID-19 vaccines, it brought back memories of vaccines administered when I was in Vietnam in 1971-72.

Schuyler Van Horn with dog Henry in Vietnam in 1972.

I was not a Medic but an intelligence officer stationed in a remote place named An Loc. Not far from the Cambodian border, 70 miles north of Saigon, straddling Route 13 (Thunder Road), I was one of 32 Americans in MACV advisor team 47, next to 2,000 ARVN (Army of the Republic of Viet Nam).

Our province, Binh Long, had a significant population of Montagnards. These were primitive indigenous people, the women were bare-breasted and the men wore loincloths and hunted with crossbows and poisoned arrows. The South Vietnamese called them “moi,” a pejorative term that translated as savage.

But the Montagnards were treated well by the Americans, and in fact, they guarded our small compound.

For some reason, we had four medical personnel on our compound — two Army Medics and two Air Force fellows. The Air Force guys spent most of their time at a leper colony just down the road.

Someone came up with the bright idea of Med Caps for Montagnards.

They lived in really remote villages and there were no roads there. They were only accessible by air — i.e. helicopter. They had no concept of germs. For example, the village’s water supply might have been a stream. A plank across the stream was their latrine. Fifty yards downstream they pulled out their drinking water. Their villages were small, with thatched huts on stilts, their livestock (if any) living underneath. They were slash and burn people, much like the early Iroquois Indians.

Needless to say, disease was rampant. They suffered from diseases such as polio, dysentery, whooping cough, measles, smallpox — all diseases that Americans had conquered and had vaccines to treat these scourges. So, the mission was to fly into the villages, vaccinate them, and we would improve their lot.

That concept was easier said than done. The first time we lined them all up, the medical personnel examined them, but they were scared of needles and no vaccinations were administered. The second time the Medics used small plastic vials of medicine, different colors treating different diseases. However, once the villagers went through the line, they all gathered around a banana tree and traded colors. The third time it was bottoms up and a big success. The fourth time ground fire was so intense we could not land. There were no more Med Caps thereafter.

And so ended my Vietnam vaccine experience.

SCHUYLER VAN HORN is a member of the Little Falls Historical Society.

To anyone who walked the halls of Little Falls High School in the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s and even into the 1990’s Hector Allen was a familiar and respected figure.

Hector taught “Social Studies” – New York State, United States and World History – at LFHS for 34 years.  Two generations of students – mothers and daughters, fathers and sons – sat in Hector’s classes and learned not only the rote dates, names and events but much more from Hector.  At its essence history is the study of life and his special teaching style brought life to history.  Hector Allen taught history passionately and this passion shown through to his students who more often than not chose him as their favorite teacher.

Hector Allen was born in Troy, New York in 1932.  During World War II his family moved to St. Johnsville, where he graduated from high school in 1949.  After a stint working in a St. Johnsville dyeing factory, Hector was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1952.  A 15 month tour of duty in Korea followed.  Following his time in the service, Hector took advantage of the G.I. Bill and earned degrees at SUNY Oneonta and SUNY Albany.  In 1958 he began his teaching career at Little Falls High School, retiring in 1993.

Even after retirement Hector Allen remained a teacher of Mohawk Valley history.

Teaming with another iconic historian, Ralph Van Horn, he produced an audio/visual historical walking tour of Little Falls, along with a tour of the abandoned Wilcox Cemetery in Little Falls and interviews with area World War II veterans.  Hector was instrumental in forming the Yorker Club at Little Falls High School and the Henry Galpin Civil War Roundtable.  For many years he led this group on tours of Civil War battlefields and other historical sites.  Throughout the area Hector was a much sought after speaker and gave innumerable talks on all manner of local history.  His books, Oppenheim Chronicles, and Oppenheim in the Civil War are seminal works on the history of his hometown, of which he is the town historian.

It is more than fitting that the Little Falls Historical Society’s 2021 Writing Series be dedicated to Hector Allen.