19th century, 20th century, Early American History, Finger Lakes, FLX, NY, Upstate New York

Walks Around the Finger Lakes. Yates County. A one-room schoolhouse

 

 

It’s not uncommon to see colonial-era churches, and those from the early days of the republic, surrounded by burial grounds.  In those days, churchyards = graveyards, and no doubt it was a successful business strategy, helping to keep folks on the straight and narrow.   The “rural” or “garden” cemetery movement didn’t begin until the 1830’s.

 

But it always struck me as odd, driving by this schoolhouse, to see it with its own cemetery, like a perpetual after-school detention for wayward and recalcitrant pupils.

The epitaphs probably have misspellings and tell of fatal miscalculations and deadly grammatical errors, “died of a dangling participle,” etc.

 

John Smith ~ We’re Just Spitballing Here

“Billy Schmeider ~ Never Added Up to Much ~ And Has Now Been Subtracted” 

“Here Lies Nathaniel Johnson / Under This Slate /  Lies the Late Nate / Always Late / To Class”

Jane Jones ~ Death is a Debt to Nature Due / Which I Have Paid and So Must You / Altho Death / Could Not Thwart / I Still Owe a Book Report

 

 

 

Never send to know for whom the school bell tolls…kind of rang a bell with me, so I never stopped, just thumbed my nose and sped by.

But finally, one autumn day, I pulled over to take a few photos, and found the explanation for the strange combo – – the 1869 building was moved to this site, along Route 14A, in 1991.

 

 

After the move and restoration, the county historian wrote “The Baldwin Cemetery directly behind the school…has recently become active again,”  which sounds mildly alarming, if you believe in ghosts, but I suppose it just means, they’d resumed burying people there again.

 

 

The new setting seems appropriate, because when I drove out to the original site – – there was another burial ground there, too, the abandoned “West Woods Cronk Cemetery.”

So now I can’t pass by with mentioning  the Cronks, a name I’ve run across before, on farms and roads all around Upstate, and while reading about the early Dutch days of this state, when it was New Netherlands.

When I visited Pixley Falls (north of Rome, NY), there was a historical marker not too far away, for an old-time countryman named Hiram Cronk.

Even though he was a small-scale farmer, in an area that seems like the hind end of beyond, when he died in 1905, Hiram rated a funeral procession through Manhattan, and reportedly 50,000 people paid their respects as he lay in state in New York’s City Hall.

It was not just his extraordinary age.  When he passed away, at the age of 105, Hiram was the last veteran of the war of 1812.  He’d joined the army on August 4, 1814, as a drummer boy.

Another branch of the family kept a longer version of the original Dutch name, something like Krankheyt, and eventually produced a famous newscaster of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, Walter Cronkite.

And that’s the way it is.

 

About 20% of people in Yates County are Amish, and many others are Mennonites. Two buggies going up the road in front of the schoolhouse.

 

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1600's, Arrant Nonsense, Colonial History, Early American History, History, New York City, NY, Revisionist History

Grub

 

Elegant al fresco dining & social distancing.

 

 

A few days ago, I posted some pictures of a young cardinal, and mentioned that even though the chick had left the nest, its parents would continue their GrubHub deliveries.

That prompted me to look up “grub.” Because reading the big dictionary, that’s the kind of excitement you can have, after months of quarantine.

I’d always thought that grub, in the sense of food, was cowboy slang – kind of surprising to find out, the OED lists its first use as 1659!

I took that as a Sign.

Thinking about 1659 + grub +cowboys . . .

I should write about Old New York, back when it was The Frontier.

 

 

Once upon a time, New York (then called New Netherlands) was the Wild West — a rip-roaring settlement, clearly no country for old men.  Like a colonial version of Dodge City – – cattle grazing, land barons, company stores, unprovoked attacks on Native Americans, gullible hayseeds from Weehawken, etc.

“Hayseeds” have been sticking around since 1577 (“hicks,” “yokels,” and “rubes” wouldn’t shamble along until much later), to provide comic relief, and to hire on as Barney Fife deputies (the ones whose only line is “They went thataway.”)

“Comic relief” wasn’t invented until 1783, and people pretty much just scowled all through the colonial era.

 

 

“Bandannas” didn’t mosey along until 1741. The Dutch proto-cowboys used to lament “How you gonna look tough / When you’re wearin’ a ruff?”

 

In those bucolic days of yore, Manhattan was a lush, verdant island, a little slice of Edam.

And the European settlers brought in livestock.

(Out-of-towners might say “Cattle drives?  in New York?!” and the locals reply, “Haven’t you ever been to New York?  They let anybody drive!”)

And I thought, they must’ve had cowboys.

But I was wrong.

It turns out to be an example, of just how badly History is organized.

Because according to the big book, there weren’t any “cowboys” to eat the grub in 1659.  That word didn’t ride over the horizon until 1725.

Before that, those folks were saddled with a lame, generic job description, just lumped together with “herders” (1625, from a Dutch word), and shepherds tending their flocks, sometimes by night (without getting paid time and a half).

So, if there weren’t any cowboys, just who was eating this antique grub?  And prior to 1725, did the cows just wander around, unsupervised and untutored, in the streets?

I checked, often they did.

“Milkmaids” (invented in 1552) had a surprisingly strong union, and refused to do any “herding, wrangling, or bovine guidance of any kind.”

Cattle & swine roamed freely for centuries, rooting around in gutters, eating the nasturtiums out of folks’ flower beds, leaving hoof marks on the Bowling Green, and making the tavern floors quite a mess.

With no cowboys to keep order, it was just the Dark Ages, practically, and you really had to watch where you stepped.

 

“Howdy!” The greeting is derived from the old-time, cheese-loving cowboys of New Netherlands, from their salutation “Gouda!”

 

 

Even when History finally had cowboys, and could’ve gotten things organized, it wasn’t that great.  Turns out, the harmonica, which to me, is another essential part of the oater scene, wasn’t invented until 1821, so for almost a century, these old-time cowboys had to lug guitars around, and maybe harpsichords.

And History didn’t think of “chuckwagons” for another forty-five years, so they had to brown-bag it until 1866.

Without chuck wagons, there’s no chance of carrying eggs for a Western Omelette, or ranch dressing for your salad.  “Sandwiches” had been created in 1762, but after hours in a saddlebag, no way they’re going to be in good shape.  Kind of a personal night mare.

If it was me, I’d ride down the interstate until I found a “diner,” but that’s even more recent (1935).  You see what I mean about disorganized history?  Nothing happens in the right order.

 

 

If you’re planning on obtaining an animal this size, it would behoove you to actually read the operator’s manual, and go through an approved cow-owners’ training class, run by a professional cowboy. (“Behoove” from the Old English “behōf,” meaning, to not get underfoot or trampled by cows.)

 

 

Anyway, despite these obstacles, New Amsterdam had cattle grazing, out there in Big Sky Country (Manhattan), by 1625.

Amazon wasn’t around yet, but the West India Co. offered Free Cow Shipping, if you purchased land in the new colony (seriously).

There were even (honestly) honest-to-heck prairies in those days, in the Hempstead Plains region of Long Island.

And “desperadoes” (1647) roamed – this is a real reward notice from those days:  “And whereas complaints are made that the Gardens of many persons have been robbed and their Poultry taken away, if there be any one who can give information of the Thieves…he shall be paid five & twenty guilders…”  Yes, there were no trains or banks to rob, but chickens lived in fear.

 

 

Whoa, take ‘er easy there, Pilgrim. When New Amsterdam was founded, these Puritans had been living next-door in Plymouth for four years already. The Dutch remembered them, living in Leiden for ten or twenty years, and had wondered where the heck they’d gotten to.

 

 

New Amsterdam was a company town, just like Durango, Colorado – full of fur traders & colorful eccentrics, a Wild Bunch, on the frontier. Only half this bunch was Dutch (there were Danes, Swedes, Germans, Walloons, Sephardim, Huegenots, Holsteins, etc.), and it was a tolerant place, by the standards of the time — a wrangling, polyglot-trouble-spot of the good, the bad, the ugly.

And there were all those cows – then and now, The Big Apple was all about the bull market and branding.

 

 

Each year, more people are killed by cows, than by sharks. Cowboys monitor and prevent gang activity, and keep ’em on the straight ‘n’ narrow.

 

 

So by 1659, when people started eating “grub,” New York had all the makings of a good western – prairies, cows, sheriffs (called “schouten” in those days, as in “Fill your hands, and come out schouten!”), soldiers fighting Native Americans, a stockade, and windmills.

As far as I’m concerned, you have to have a clacking, creaking windmill for the right atmosphere, whether you’re filming Hans Brinker or Rio Bravo.

 

 

 

The stockade, along what’s now Wall St, was actually to keep out English & Yankees, not Indians, but again, a great backdrop for a western.  The beer was weak in those days, but a “vaquero” (1519) could have a medicinal shot of Holland Gin, good for arrow wounds, lumbago & sciatica, which you’re gonna get after a long day in the saddle.

But tragically, in its disjointed way, poorly steered, History still lacked chuck wagons, diners, harmonicas, really portable harpsichords, steam locomotives, six-shooters, and cowboys.

 

 

Cowboy’s Lament – the end of free range beef and traditional windmills

 

Sorry to say a discouraging word, pardner, but it’s kinda sad, thinking of those early Dutch herders,  home on the range, making sure the windmills didn’t spook the herd, and yet not considered to be cowboys.  Maybe some of them, who didn’t have horses, would just take the Broadway stage to work.  Glumly setting around the fire, eating their “grub” – probably pickled herrings, maybe a bowl of succotash – washed down by a tankard of warm heiferweizen.

 

And those colonial range riders, darned if they didn’t feel kinda unappreciated somehow, kinda…undefined, you might say, because they weren’t just herders, they were cowboys…but the word just hadn’t sprang into existence yet.  Dang it.

History is just a mess.

 

Yep, lose the fancy duds, trade that lace ruff for a bandana, and this Dutch feller’s ready to ride.  That looks to be at least a ten gallon hat.

 

portrait by Fredric Remington (born in Canton, NY)

 

 

Big hats, big boots, horses, cows, prairies, an addictive tobacco habit, windmills, lack of concern for personal hygiene…they were all set for to be cowboys, just didn’t have the right word for it.

But on a happier note, in the morning, there’d be cardinals singing in the trees, beautiful birds which they didn’t have back in Holland – the cardinal chick was what started this whole discussion, remember?  And about exactly the same time in history that people started eating “grub,” the Dutch also started coffee plantations, in Ceylon, India, and then Indonesia, so the 17th c. cow-herders could at least have a cup of Java with their donuts.

They’d sing an ol’ cowboy lament from the Lovin’ Spoonful, accompanied only by guitar, since there weren’t no harmonicas yet:

Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck gettin’ dirty and gritty
Been down, isn’t it a pity
Doesn’t seem to be a cowboy in the city

 

Far as I’m concerned, it ain’t a real western without a few windmills.

 

 

When my relatives Out West, roughing it in the Wasatch Range, want to do some real cowboy-style cooking, they build a fire, shovel the coals into a pit, and do Cast-Iron Dutch Oven Cooking

 

A native New Yorker, and cowboy, of New Netherlands descent.  Teddy Roosevelt, at the chuck wagon. Lookin’ kinder ornery, like a man who spotted a saddle sore on his steak.

 

Yep, most a these here pictures are from The Nat’l Gallery of Art,
The Met & the U.S. Library of Congress.
I don’t hold with readin’ much, myself.
It’s jest a sight easier to make stuff up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One of my grandmothers instilled in us a family custom, passed down from her parents, etc – – to celebrate the “first” of each summer arrival.

So, the first time you have any vegetable from the garden, for example, you’re allowed to make a wish.

When it’s fresh peas, or corn-on-the-cob, it’s also customary for me to wish for more.

These pictures are of the first cardinal fledgling I’ve seen this summer.  I really enjoy seeing cardinals, and certainly wish to see more.

The chick was sitting in a bush, looking a bit disgruntled, but she was the one who violated the stay-at-home order.

Apparently it’s quite common for young cardinals to attempt to fly prematurely.

No worries, the parents will continue GrubHub services, to feed the chick until it can fly.

Although I think it’s sunflower seeds, not actual grubs.

 

 

 

Birds, Nature, Uncategorized

First visitor of summer

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