Reminiscences of the Patterson
by Leon D. Palmer
Being an account of the happenings of
an Irish family who
immigrated to the United States from about 1840 to 1900.
Spelling has not been corrected and left as Mr. Palmer wrote this work.
Pages 44 - 62
The Machine That Talked, Sang and Played Music,
And The Phonograph Age.
Back about 1898 I remember how Uncle Silas Ames went with cousin Clarence and myself up on the Columbus Hill to a talking machine entertainment. It was in the old Columbus Hill Church. It to us, at that time was a very curious and remarkable contraption, a machine that could actually talk, and sing and play any kind of music. It appeared to look like a big bass tuba horn that is used to play in bands, and this horn was connected up to a box that was wound up with a crank. At the small end of the horn on top of the box was a metal cylinder on which a record was pushed on and the thing did actually talk, or sang or played music in a sort of a nasal or squeaky tone it is true, but it was the real thing. As the years went bye this machine was greatly improved and was called a Phonograph by it original inventor, Thomas Alva Edison. Some imitators of Edison's invention called their machine a "graphophone". They turned the name phonograph around and spelled and pronounced it backward. As the years still went bye more improvements were still made and the brass horn was eliminated entirely, or was conceiled in the box itself.
In the first two or three years that I lived and worked on the Patterson farm I had forgotten about his "talking machine". Finally one summer a man by the name of "Hill" came to North Lansing Grange Hall and exhibited some moveing pictures, and he had one of these talking machines or Phonographs that furnished music and songs for his entertainment.
William, Mother, Lila, Edna and myself went, as moveing pictures were a new thing, and people were very curious to see what they were like. My interest was aroused, but such an idea at that time of ever owning a Phonograph of my own never entered my head.
North of Henry Howser corners John Henry Miller lived. He lived up on the top of a small but very steep hill, and just opposite to his house was the Miller Cemetary. There was another John Miller that lived south of North Lansing. He was called simply John Miller and John Henry Miller was the man that lived north of Howser corners. John Henry had three daughters, Ethel, Ada, and Elva, and at the time I write he had a man working for him by the name of Perry Miller. As far as I know he was not related to his employer. Perry Miller liked to purchase many things of Sears Roebuck and Company's mail order house. In 1900 to 1903 or 4 the Chicago mail order houses were just beginning to be known to country farm people. Rural free delivery of mail was just getting started and country people were beginning to wake up, and take interest in what was going on in the world, and some of them were even beginning to subscribe to a "Daily News paper"!
At this time Sears Roebuck & Co. were stressing the sale of "Graphophones" which were manufactured by the Columbia Phonograph Company. These machines were a new thing, in the entertainment field and sold like "hot cakes" among country people. Perry Miller, John Henry's hired man bought one of these machines. Together with fifty wax records which Sears Roebuck sold at 15 cents each when sold in lots of fifty their selection of titles. Perry enjoyed this machine very much and he liked to play it for the neighbors, who flocked there in droves to hear this amaseing machine. Evenings were spent in playing it and visitors refused to go home untill the last record was ground out at ten, eleven or even twelve o'clock at night. A great many evenings I spent at John Henry Millers listening to Perry's "talking machine", and of course Perry would send and get some new records quite often, and they would have to be heard. John Henry Miller was a very pleasant joval sort of a man. He was always laughing, or craking jokes, or smileing and he did not seem to have a care in the world. He did like to sing and many is the time I have stoped working over across the valley on the Patterson farm just to hear John Henry sing. He had one song that he had learned from Perry's graphophone. It was "I'm old but I am afully tough.""I came to your city, the sights for to see,I can not remember the rest of it and he sang many others. He sang with all the strength of his voice and his singing would be heard a long distance. Another old time song he could be heard singing was "Far away on the Hills of Old New Hampshire." Also "Nellie Grey" and "In the good Old Summertime".
The town, and the big public square.
I came to ride on your electric street cars,
And wink at the pretty girls there.
For I'm old, but I am afully though. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!
One year I think it was in the fall of 1906 I worked for John Henry for a few weeks. I helped him draw oats, and thrash. I helped him cut corn and mix cement for some repairs on his barn, and helped him tear down an old lean to kitchen on his house and he built a new kitchen. John Henry Miller was a very agreeable man to work for. The summer after Perry Miller aquired his Graphophone I took my yearly trip out to Chenango County and while I was gone I heard several Edson Phonographs. My cousin Clarence took me down to a neighbors who had just purchased an Edison machine, and I saw that the Edson Phonograph was far ahead of Sears Roebuck Graphophone. I was getting my mind made up to buy a machine, which I did in the spring of 1903 or 4. I purchased of the agent at Groton a Mr. Earl Rostenbader (Kostenbader)? and Edson Home Phonograph for 30 dollars, and some records. The round wax records had to be handled very carefully, like eggs, as they would break very easily. After some years Thomas Edson invented the Blue Amberol Unbreakable records which were a great improvement. After I purchased my Phonograph we had lots of company. John Henry Miller and Perry came and called on me to see and hear
what I had in music. John Buckley and "Down" Robinson came one evening and their families, Jake Decamp my coonhunting friend came one evening and I entertained him untill about midnight. As Jake left that night he says, "You come down some Sunday and we will go down to Charlie Osmans and hear his machine. He has one just like yours only an older model." It was not many Sundays before I went down and called on Jake and we went and called on Charlie Osmun. We stayed all the afternoon, Charlie Osmun had a lot of records, several hundred of them. Jake was more crazy to hear the Phonograph played than I was, and on the way home that night, Jake says "Im a going to have one of them machines myself sometime and he did. A few years latter he purchased one from Ed Smith the store keeper at North Lansing.
I would call the period of time between 1900 and 1912 to 15 the Phonograph age.
Perhaps this is a good time to write about what finally became of our neighbor John Henry Miller. Several years after the above incidents as I have related had happened, John Henry discovered that he had a small groth or hard lump about as big as a small peanut or hickorynut under his left arm or shoulder. He called on Dr. Harry Anthony a physician who was then practiceing in Locke. Dr. Anthony advised him to let him take the lump out right there and then. The operation would have been simple and over with in a very few minutes, but John Henry was timid and afraid and would not let Dr. Anthony cut the bunch out. He, I suppose thought maybe the lump would go away. He went home and that next year the bunch was still there and growing bigger and John was scared afraid to go to the Dr. again. As the bunch begain to pain him and was as big as an egg he finally made up his mind that he would have the Doctor take the lump out. So he again called on Dr. Anthony. Dr. Anthony examined the lump and says, "You expect me to take that out now, today"? John, poor man said yes his mind was made up he was ready. Dr. Anthony said that he would not dare to undertake such and operation alone, that he would have to go and see a specialist and he recommended a Dr. in Rochester accompanyed by Dr. Anthony. Upon examination by the specialist he was told that in his opinion it would not be wise to take the lump out of his arm pit as it was so large that in order to make a thorough job they would have to take his arm off at the shoulder. The specialist advised John Henry to go home and live as long as he could which he did. The lump was a cancer and John lived a year or two latter when he died. He died Sunday May 17, 1908.
Myra Miller his wife died on Feb. 27, 1913. Her funeral was on March 2th.
Down Robinsons Trip to the Moon
In 1901 the Pan American Exposition was held in Buffalo. Excursions were run to Buffalo by the Lehigh Valley Railroad from Ithaca. Our next door neighbors John Buckley and wife and Down Robinson and wife went. I did not go, I was not used to traveling then at least not so far away from home. Prehaps I was to young. Down Robinson was an auctioneer and cried many auction sales. His real name was Charles Donald Robinson but to all his neighbors he was known as "Down" Robinson. How he ever got his nickname I never found out. He loved to talk and he dearly loved music. He could describe many things in a very interesting way.
Sometimes after his trip to the Buffalo Exposition he was calling at our house and he told of many things that he saw at the fair. One of the things which especially interested him was the trip he and his wife Ida took to the Moon, while they were on the Exposition grounds. He said we walked down the street called, "Midway". There must have been over a mile of shows on each side of the street with people outside of each show, harangueing the crowd trying to get people to come in and see their show. As they walked along they came to an enormous big ten and barkers outside shouting The chance of a life time, take a trip to the moon by air ship, the only chance you ever will have, dont miss it, a trip to the moon by air ship, only twenty five cents. Step right up ladies and gentlemen. Air ship all ready to sail.
This was some years before airplanes were invented. This seemed to be such an out of the ordinary sort of show that he and Ida concluded to try this trip to the moon, so after securing their tickets they entered the big tent. "Right this way ladies and gentlemen to the air ship that will sail you to the moon. Get right aboard, Its almost ready to sail." Step lively there, the big tent seemed to be filled with a blue light like moon light. Their guide led them down a walk in the center of the tent and along side of what appeared to be a big row boat or barge. They went up some steps over the side of the boat and took a seat together with many other people. Soon the boat was filled and a bell was sounded. "All aboard for the moon, All aboard." The steps were cast aside the boat was unfastened from its moorings and the boat began to move around, and seemed to move by means of a propeller on the stearn of the boat. They seemed to be floating upward through space. The stars came out and were all around them. The boat rocked some. The guide on board shouted, "We are on the way to the moon, Look ladies and gentlemen see down there below us, the Exposition grounds and the City of Buffalo." and looking over the side of the ship they could see the fairgrounds all electrically lighted up, and shineing through the darkness. The City of Buffalo was seen in the distance. The large electric sign on the Larkin Soap Company's plant showed up conspicuously, through the night. As they continued to float higher the Exposition grounds and the City of Buffalo faded away and they looked down on a sea of clouds. The stars seemed to be all around them. Meteors shot bye them.
You could almost touch the stars they were so close. A big wind commenced to blow, thunder and lightening commenced to snap and crash. "We are getting into a storm, hang on tight", shouted the guide, and the boat rocked and swayed, and how the wind did blow! Soon the storm was over and they seemed to have risen above it as the lightening continued to flash in the clouds beneath them. The moon could be seen in the distance getting bigger and bigger. A yellow glare of light dazzled their eyes and faded the stars out. "We are almost there" shouted the guide and the boat seemed to glide out of the air and came to a stop up along side of a wharf. The light grew brighter and as we stepped out on the platform or wharf several people dressed in grass skirts greet us. They ran on ahead of us and they motioned for us to follow them, which we did and we stepped out into the bright sunshine. We heard birds singing and as we walked a little further we saw in astonishment one of the most beautiful tropical gardens ever seen. This was the moon! The most beautiful spot we ever saw, we stood on the shore of a small pond surrounded with palms and ferns and all manner of beautiful flowers. In among the palms and ferns sat people dressed in queer grass skirts, and they played the sweetest, most beautiful, most heavenly music that we had ever heard. They played on all kinds of guitars and mandolins. We would have like to stayed there on the "moon" all the rest of the day and listened to their music, but after another ships load of people had arrived and landed from the earth, our guide said "this way out back to the earth". The trip back to the earth was very uneventful, for we turned a corner, and in an instant we had stepped from the moon, out on the Midway street again. "Down" said their trip to the moon was the most realistic trip he ever took.
It was wonderful how they could put on such an entertainment and make it seem so real.
The comical part of this tale is that "Downs" trip to the Moon had a good effect in so much that "Down" purchased a guitar soon after and started in learning to play. Those "Moon People" demonstrated what sweet music a guitar could make.
In latter years Down Robinson and Zeno Teeter who played a violin furnished the music for many party dances around the neighborhood.
Our Neighbor John Buckley and his Purchase of the Dan Lane Farm
The year 1904 was the last year that I worked for William Patterson. Life grew tiresome as I knew it on the Patterson farm. It seemed work, eat and sleep was all there was to life. I got lonesome for some one to talk to, William as he grew older seemed less inclined to talk, and it seemed to me, he grew morose, and sullen, at times On the other hand, I may have seemed that way to him. I know I felt that way. He had done me a great service in teaching me how to do all kinds of work on his farm, prehaps at that time I did not appreciate it.
As grow older we see and understand better the many things that are past. I was approaching my eighteenth birthday, and I was getting restless, there was a growing mania in my mind to get out in the world and do something for my self. I wanted above all else to see and meet people, there was a growing conviction in my mind that I was missing something. This conviction continued to grow in my mind each time I returned from my yearly visit to my old home and folks in Chenango County and especially after my Uncle George had given me that lecture, and I may say inspiration or vision of going to school that he gave me that day when I visited him at Sherburne. I read all the books of travel, adventure and exploration that I could get my hands on and I dreamed of the places I would like to see, and the things I would like to do. The world was alive, growing up and moveing and I like all boys in their teens wanted to see some action.
All these things I dreamed off as I followed the horses, Old Dick and Major as I plowed and harrowed day after day on the Patterson place.
William was impossible to talk to, Mother was to busy weaving carpets and her many duties to listen. True I had my new Phonograph to listen to, and my gun with which to go hunting in my leasure time, but I realized these things were not getting me any where. I wanted to rub elbos with other people, I was lonesome, and I too was getting meloncholy and dull as well as William. The time was approaching when we two should part. We were not suited to each others company. Our ideas clashed.
William and mother never seemed to take any interest in the neighbors or to call on them. They had no time for sociability. At North Lansing was a grange hall, and many of the neighbors belonged to this organization. The Grange has been of great benefit to farmers in many ways and as well as makeing a place where country people could get together and talk over their many problems and get better aquainted with each other, but William and mother could not see it that way. Such things were all wrong.
There was a telephone line from North Lansing east as far as Andrew Brinks residence. John Buckley and Down Robinson induced
Doff Miller owner of the telephone line, to extend the line to their residences, and asked William if he would like a phone put in his house, he said no, he had no use for such and when they dug a hole for one of the telephone poles in front of the house he made Frank Robinson the fellow that dug the hole to fill it up. Mother was provoked at William at this and gave him a piece of her mind, She told him it was not harming us in any way, if they did set a pole near to our door yard, so William apologized and told Frank to dig the hole out again which he did. John Buckley our next door neighbor quite often when working over the fence on the Dennis Kelley farm would halt his team and ask how I was makeing out. He seemed to take quite an interest in me, and I noticed he was always keeping an eye on William and myself and what we were doing on the Patterson farm.
John always seemed to have my interest in mind, and always made it his business to say hello! and talk to me, and ask about myself when ever he met me. This pleased me very much. When I could see John Buckley over the fence it gave me a new inspiration. He grew to be in latter years the best friend I had. He seemed to know and understand me better than any one else. He gave me sound advise a great many times, and sometimes his advice was not to my likeing, sometimes he would give me a bawling out, and laugh and swear at my ideas. He had, had, experience, I had not.
John Buckley was one of the keenest and shrewdest business men I ever knew, he was honest, square and just, hard as nails sometimes, and he was a most profane man, he could swear like a trooper, he was raised that way, but under his very rough exterior he had a kind heart. Probably some people would scoff at what I write, but I knew him. John had enemies and he had many friends. He had no use for a man that was not honest and on the square. His word was as good as his bond and he expected the other fellows to be the same. Like William Patterson he was Irish and he had, had a hard life and a rough bringing up. His mother and father were Catholics but John was not, he said the catholics were to much for him, and when his mother died and they held a wake for her as was their custom John would not go. He and his sister Mary made their home for years at Charles Osmans. Finally John married a neighbor girl Belle Conley and started out working for himself. He told me many times "how I wish I had a boy." His boy was a girl, an only child and her name was Hildred (Note: transcriber states this could be Mildred). He sent her to high school at Groton, and then to the Centeral City Business School at Syracuse. After graduating from here she took a position with the Solvay Company near Syracuse, after working there for some years she was sent to New York City as head bookkeeper or auditor. John said he could not have any schooling himself so he gave his girl all he dident get.
As I have said John Buckley was the keenest of business men, He had intuition, he had foresite. He seemed to follow two rules one was: -
"Plan your work then work your plan". The other was, "Pay as you go and you wont owe."
I do not say that John Buckley was the perfect business man and did not make mistakes. He was humane and did make mistakes sometimes, and he was not always right, but he was a more successful business man than many of his neighbors. He made some enemies. At the time he purchased the Daniel Lane farm many people took the side against him.
When Newton Lane died, (he was Dan Lanes son) his wife Cora, continued to work the farm with the aid of hired help for about a year or two. After Roswell Beardley death his estate was settled up and a mortgage which he held against the Dan Lane farm had to be sold or transfered to other parties.
Grant Halsey, Cora's brother who was just a fair lawyer, was reported to have advised Cora to refuse to pay the mortgage and let them foreclose and sell the farm and then at the sale there would be the chance of buying back the farm for less money than the mortgage. These calculations on Grants and Cora's part were O.K. but there was one possibility they had not figured on enough. It gave other people besides themselves the right to bid on the farm and buy it if they wished, and this is just what happened. One man they did not know about wanted to buy this farm worse than Cora did and that man was John Buckley. The Dan Lane farm was a very desirable farm. It had large broad fields and good buildings, a large apple orchid, a hundred tons or more of hay could be cut and sold off the place every year, besides large grain crops. The farm was sold at Ithaca at the court house, the day of the sale found Cora Lane and her brother Grant Halsey on hand. So also was John Buckley. Cora and Grant Halsey expected to get the farm at a very reasonable price, as the times were not the best, money was scarce, and few farms were changing hands at that time. They had not figured John Buckley as being a competitor, he upset their apple cart completely, and if I am informed aright about this affair, John and Cora were the only bidders. Every time Cora and Grant made a bid, John would raise it and it was finally sold to John for $4,5000. (sic) John was determined to have the place, he had some money he had saved up and he had quietly secured good backing for the rest of the purchase price of the farm.
Cora and Grant Halsey were very much disappointed. Cora was heart broken at loseing her home. She wanted the place and was makeing money off of the farm. It was her husbands home. She and Grant should have secured the money and paid up the mortgage but they thought they were going to buy the place back cheap. They had let it slip thru their fingers. So Cora had to have an auction and sell off all the farm tools and stock and leave. Feeling around the neighborhood was tense. Some people sympathized with Cora, some sided with John and said it served Cora
and Grant right.
The day of the auction at Cora Lane's arrived. I remember I was there, with the rest of the neighbors.
Lew Talmadge, who was Cora's brother in law and Grant Halsey had pastured a flock of sheep on the farm, and had put up a long stretch of woven wire fenceing temporarily to keep the sheep in the field where they belonged. Lew seeing John at the auction says to John "I have a stretch of fence up back here that belongs to me, I am going to take it down." John says to him "Lew listen to me, why dident you take that fence down before the sale of this farm, or at the sale have this fence reserved, Dont you touch that fence. If you do I'll have you arrested. All fences that are fast to posts go with the farm. If you bought a farm would you let me go on and take down some of the fences?" Lew and Grant when the farm was sold did not think of such a thing as the farm being sold to some one else and so neglected to take their fence down. The plans of mice and men sometimes go awray!
A pair of big wagon scales were in one end of the hay barn. These were fast to a stone foundation, but were put up for sale. John forbid them to sell them as they were fast to a foundation and part of the farm and barn. No one bid on these scales but Grant Halsey and he did not take them away. John was legaly right.
One other incident I remember that happened at Cora Lane's auction was a short fist fight. A lot of the boys were throwing snow balls and hitting a certain Frank Robinson. He got mad and turned on one of his tormentors and for about a minute a lively fist fight ensured. It broke up the auction for a few minutes as every body run to see the fight, leaving the auctioneer all alone with a cow he was trying to sell. This occasioned a lot of merriment and laughter among the bidders and spectators and put everybody in good humor.
Working for John Buckley and Frank Pierson
During the winter of 1904 and 5 I helped Wm cut wood, but I some how made him understand that I would not work for him the comeing summer. So he hired a boy by the name of Sammy Stevenson.
John Buckley had been asking me if I would not work for him. He wished to hire me by the month, but I felt independent and did not want to work by the month. John and Dennis Kelley had purchased a flock of sheep over toards Groton that winter and John had induced me to go over and help drive the sheep home. For several years John and Dennis had keept a dairy of cows on the Kelley farm but the price of milk and butter got so low during 1903 and 4 that they as well as most of the rest of the neighbors sold their cows and refused to draw milk to North Lansing to the Standard Butter Company. Butter was 14 to 16 cents a lb, that made milk around 40 to 60 cents a 100 lbs! I believe this was the time the Old Standard Butter Company went out of business. On the way over to Groton after the sheep, we went in Johns Portland cutter, (it was fine sleighing) we talked and talked and John tried to hire me. He asked all about what I intended to do the comeing year and if I was going to stay with William. He said I was worth and could earn, more money than William could afford to pay. He said he would give me $25.00 a month himself. I refused to work by the month, but said I would work for him by the day. John tried to talk me out of this, said I would earn more money to work by the month. I told him frankly that I had worked pretty steady the past few years and dident want to be tied up by the month so we did not come to any agreement on the matter. John was provoked I could see. Said he had to have two steady hired men that summer as he was working the two farms, the Dennis Kelley and his own farm.
I helped Down Robinson cut and saw wood that spring. The 1st of April came, Sammy Stevenson commenced work for William, and I was still on the fence about working out.
While working for Down on a Monday, Down was telling me how he had been at John Buckley's the Sunday before and he told me how Bert Breed (who was John Henry Miller's son in law), had been to see John and hire out to him. He wanted $1.25 a day steady rain or shine and the Dennis Kelley house to live in which was standing empty as John had moved down on his own place. John said he would not pay such outrageious wages and Bert went away unhired. Down said he wants you to work for him, he will be after you soon, he has one man hired a Floyd Demond at $25.00 a month.
Sure enough John was after me that very night. He called me out to the road as he was driving bye in his buggy. "Are you going to work for me this summer or not?" he asked. I replied that I would if I could work by the day. So after some discussion he agreed to pay me one dollar a day and when it came
haying and harvest I was to have more, and I could come to work that next morning. He said for me to get down to his house at 6 o'clock and help care for the horses and eat breakfast with them, and I was there promptly at 6 the next morning and dident I step high and dident life take on a new zest and meaning!, when I started in working for John Buckley. I felt like a conqueror at getting away from home. I shall always remember what William Patterson said when I started in working for John. He said " Hus you'll find out you will have to work at Buckley's". He poor man did not understand the situation at all. I found I had to work, but the chance was such an inspiration to me that working for Buckley seemed to be one big holiday or vacation all summer long. I had rather work ten days for Buckley than to have to work for William one day, that is saying something but it was the truth. I enjoyed working that summer at John's. He was a most efficient manager of the two farms. The work was all turned off like clock work, 6:30 A.M. was breakfast time, 12 o'clock sharp was dinner time, 6 o'clock at night was supper time. We always quit about 15 or 20 minutes before meal time so as to take care of the horses. John always said that ten hours work was enough for any man or horse and he wanted them to have 30 to 45 minutes rest after dinner. This was when horses were working hard in the spring plowing and harrowing. Sometimes in haying we would not quit quite so early at night and dident we do some plowing that year at Buckleys! I remember hearing John saying that we plowed on the two farms around 140 acres! This was put into grain, mostly buckwheat, oats barley and corn. There was around 300 acres I believe in the two farms. This was years before gasoline tractors were even dreamed about, and all this plowing and fitting was done with five horses, Jack, Fred, Billey, Daisy and the kicker Black Dick. I drove Billey the Bay horse and Black Dick the kicker. This Black Dick horse when putting the harness on him or takeing it off had a habit of kicking his heels nearly strait up in the air! He was a perfectly wonderful horse to drive and work when he was harnessed but, O boy! how he did like to kick that harness off. I did not harness him, John or Floyd always placed the harness on him and you wanted to keep away from his heels when working him. Floyd always drove Jack and the grey horse Fred and the fifth horse Daisy was used when the old grey horse Fred got tired as he was the oldest horse on the place and had a touch of the heaves. Floyd Demond, John's other hired man was an agreeable person to work with, he was always telling stories, and cracking jokes. At times John had some other help in haying. A Frank Robinson worked some, also John Pierce helped for some days in haying. There was over a hundred acres of haying to do and John and two carpenters working on his own farm, Charles Williams, and Dan Darling. They were repairing and fixeing over the house on the Dan Lane farm.
I did not make my yearly visit to Chenango County that year, I worked for John. I was to busy. The summer passed, autumn came. I help thrash buckwheat in October. John had a large
crop. We thrashed fro three days, and the last day it looked so rainy that John proposed thrashing after supper and into the night as there was a moon which we did, and we finished about 11 o'clock that night thrashing in all over 1,000 bushel of buckwheat from around 60 acres of grain. The thrashing in those days was done with a steam traction engine they went out of use about 1920 when gasoline tractors commenced to come into general use. I wonder what the young men of 1939 and 40 would think of being asked to plow 140 acres of ground and fitting it with two teams of horses? It would be to slow for them!
After thrashing the buckwheat that fall I and Floyd the other man was set picking apples. There was a large crop of apples that year and the orchard on Buckleys farm was well loaded.
About this time Frank Pierson who lived at West Groton, purchased about all the apples around West Groton and North Lansing. He offered $1.50 a day for men to help sort and barrel these apples. Benton Buck stopped in one Sunday and told me about it and wanted me to go with him putting up apples for Frank Pierson. I was getting $1.00 a day for picking apples for John and I told him about it.
He refused to pay me any more than $1.00 and said that as he had furnished me work all summer steady, that I ought to stay and help him finish picking apples. He had paid me $1.50 a day through haying. How ever I reminded him that I was working by the day and was under no obligation to stay with him all summer, and that I was not going to work for any less than $1.50 a day, so he said go on he'd find more help which he did. He got a George Decamp to help him finish picking the apples and I started in working for Frank Pierson.
I started in sorting and packing apples at Andrew Brinks place with Benton Buck, (who was Ben Browns grandson) and Fred Gallager who, (was the son of John Gallager). From Andrew Brinks we went down around North Lansing to various places. Bert Rosses, Frank Beardsleys, Frank Morans, Frank Bothwells and many other places that I have forgotten it has been so long ago. Frank Pierson sold these apples to a western firm in Minneapolis. Apples in 1905 were beginning to show worm holes in the blew end and these the western men objected to, so they sent men to oversee the packing of the apples, and I made the aquintence of Walker Ellis overseer for our gang. Besides Benton Buck and Fred Gallager and myself, Leon Buck and Warner Pierson were added to the crowd to sort apples so we made quite an apple packing gang. We worked untill cold freezing weather in November.
One incident that I believe is worthy of mention that summer. I worked for John Buckley, is of John's first ride in a "horseless" carriage. J. Dewitt Hewitt of the firm of Hewitt Brothers at Locke was calling on John one day and he had just purchased a "new Horseless carriage" or automobile. "Mr. Jum" Hewitt as he was called made the remark that he was going down to Andrew Brinks. John who like the rest of us were looking the new
"vehicle" over (It was the noon hour.) John says I want to go down to Brinks to. "O.K. jump in " says "Jum" and away they went. On his return John said that if he ever go able he was going to own one of them contraptions himself. I believe this was the first I ever heard a "horseless carriage" called automobile.
Valentines School of Telegraphy
That fall of 1905 after finishing packing apples for Frank Pierson I tried to get a job in the village of Groton at the chair factory, but it did not succeed. I also took a day and went to Cortland and tried to get a position in the Wickwire works, but this to did not succeed. As there was nothing I could find to do I had to stay at home. This I did not want to do. I felt I was at the age where I could not afford to be sitting around idle. I had worked all summer for John Buckley and had earned a good pocket full of money which pleased me very much, and I wanted to continue to work and earn. I did not want to be dependent on William Patterson. I had plenty of time for reflection and study of the matter.
An ad in the "Youths Companion", arrested my attention. It was, "Learn telegraphy, and work on the railroad, go out west get big wages." This appealed to me, and I wrote to Valentines School of telegraphy for further information. It was sent promptly, and they pictured a telegraphers like as being ideal, and a stepping stone to bigger and better things. I knew I had but little schooling and wondered if I did not have enough to enable me to be a telegraph operator and fill one of those positions out west. The more I studied the matter the more enthusiastic I became. One sensible thing I did do was to go to to school and try and brush up on what little I did know of reading, writeing and arithmetic. I started in, Anna Austin was the teacher. I must have surprised her by going to school for about eight weeks and in that time I did do some brushing up on my learning. It also showed me how little I did know.
On the 31st day of January William took me to Ithaca to the Lehigh Valley R. R. station, where I purchased a ticket for Janesville, Wisconsin. William shook hands with me and bid me good bye. I think he was sorry to see me go. He did not say much. I watched him out of sight as he drove away up the street. I was embarking on a venture which if successful , might mean that I would not see New York State again in years. I was elated, I was on my own.
The train which I was to take would not leave untill some time in the evening so I had the greater share of the afternoon in which to wait. I purchased my ticket got my truck checked and sat down in the depot a spell, and then walked up the street just to pass the time away. I had been corresponding with Valentine Brothers at Janesville and they had painted me a rosy picture of their school and what a wonderful job I was to have when they learned me telegraphy in their school. I wondered if I was doing the right thing. I realized I as just an inexperienced farm boy unused to meeting people in the business world. No one had advised me in this undertaking, it was just my idea picked out of a paper!
The evening came and with it the train, the Black Diamond Express, the Lehigh Valley's crack train at that time. I got aboard and was whireled away into the night. The night was bitter cold. Outside the wind whistled and the snow blowed. I reclined in the most luxurious upholstered seat I had ever seen on a railroad train. It the car was brilliantly lighted with electric lights, and it was warm and comfortable. The train roared on through the night makeing me miles and miles farther away each hour from my home folks in Tompkins County. I ate some lunch that mother had put up for me, and I wondered what she was doing and if she was thinking of me. The train reached Buffalo around 9 o'clock makeing only a few stops at the larger stations between Ithaca and Buffalo. In Buffalo the car I was in was put on to another train and was soon on the way again. It crossed the bridge at Niagara Falls, and entered Canada on through the provence of Ontario and into Michigan going under the Detroit river through the St. Croix tunnel. Thirteen years before I had crossed that river with father and mother and the baby Lila on a barge. The boat would strike a sand bar at times and would be whireled around by the current and then would get loose and start going again. This I remembered as I went through the tunnel under the bottom of the river this time. If I recollect it was beginning to get day light as we left Detroit. We rolled on through Michigan, past battle creek where father and mother had spent the greater share of the winter 13 years ago. At about 2 o'clock the large city of Chicago was reached. Here I was transfered to the Chicago and North Western R. R. Depot by Parmlee's bus line drawn by horses. Had to wait here about one hour then was aboard the train again. This train on the C. & N. W. was painted a bright yellow, which seemed odd as all the eastern passenger coaches were painted a dark green, and how that train did seem to run? It seemed to make more speed than the trains I had ridden on from Ithaca to Chicago. There was no snow on the ground as there was in Canada the night before, but it was cold. I arrived in Janesville, 91 miles north west of Chicago at about 7 o'clock in the evening. Valentine Brothers had written me that when I arrived in Janesville, to tell the bus driver to take me to Valentines School and my bus fare would be paid by them. So when I got off the train I saw a bus at the side of the depot, and a fellow about my own age standing near bye, (latter I found out this fellows name was Charlie Ward.) He said, "Yes sir, get right in". So we drove off, and down the street, soon he turned a corner and came on to a much better and brighter lighted street. It seemed to be the main street and I judged he was traveling toard the east. After about 10 or 15 minutes he drove up to the Hotel Myers. He said, " You get out here to in the hotel and wait" and some of Valentines will find you. He asked if I had any baggage at the depot. I said yes a trunk, he took my check and said he would get my truck in the morning. I stepped inside the hotel and immediately a bell boy took my suit case and escorted me up to the hotel clerks desk who politely asked if I desired a room. At the moment I did not know of anything else to do, so I registered my name in his book and was shown a room up stairs. Remembering what the bus
driver had said about Valentines finding me there I soon came down stairs and set watching the people come and go. It was not long before a middle aged man came in went up to the clerks desk and looked at the register, and asked the clerk something. The clerk motioned toard me and he came over and asked if I was Mr. Palmer. I said yes and he replied, "I am Mr. Valentine who you have been corresponding with. Come with me and we will go over to the school. We have an evening class over there." He took me across the street and into a large building where we got into an elevator and went up to the fourth floor, which was occupied by the school.
Some telegraph instruments were clicking away and a number of young men seemed just ready to leave. The room was a large one and contained many rows of tables, each table had a set of telegraph instruments.
Mr. Valentine set down at his desk in his office and proceeded to make out an Enrollment Certificate into Valentine School. He asked some questions if I had had a pleasant trip, and had any difficulty in getting to Janesville, and what I had paid for railroad fare. He said they would pay $10.00 of the fare by deducting this from the tuition of $50.00. He said all students were required to pay their tuition in advance, so I handed him over $40.00 and received the Certificate of enrollment in the school. After this transaction was concluded he asked if I wished to stay at the hotel Myers that night or if I wanted to find a rooming and boarding place that night? I replied I was anxious to get a room and board and asked how much I would have to pay? He replied that he knew a lady down the street that took roomers and boarders and he understood she charged $3.00 a week. So we went back down the elevator to the street and across to Hotel Myers where I got my suitcase and I told the hotel clerk that I would not require the room after all which was O.K. with him. Mr. Valentine and myself walked down the street about three blocks then turned in to a low down house with a porch on the front. He said a Mrs. Parker lived there and that this would be handy for me as it was near to the school. In response to his knock on the door a pleasant appearing lady answered, and Mr. Valentine says, "Good evening Mrs. Parker, this is Mr. Palmer, he is looking for a room and board and could you accomadate him?" She replied that she could as she had room for two more boys. Mr. Valentine bid me good night and said he would see me in the morning at school. I stepped inside into a well lighted liveing room. A number of people were sitting around. After removeing my over coat, Mrs. Parker inquired where I was from, I replied from New York State. She introduced me to her husband Mr. William Parker, her son George Parker, her two daughters, Edna and Nettie Parker and two roomers, a William Demeritt of Nebraska, and a "Pat" Fanning of Janesville who was a machinest and worked in a machine shop. "Pat" held a violin on his lap, upon which he had been playing untill interrupted by my entrance.
Going to School at Valentines, and Mrs. Parker's Family.
Also the Railroad wreck on the C. & N. W.
I was given a room with Mr. Demerritt of Nebraska. He was a good likeable sort of a fellow I should judge a year or two older than I was. He was attending Valentines School and learning telegraphy, as I was about to get out to do. He was called "Art" by the rest of the boys. School commenced at eight o'clock A. M. and let out at 4 P.M. I was on hand promptly at opening of school the next morning where I met the two older Valentines, A. H. Valentine and Arthur Valentine. The Valentine I had met the night before was Richard Valentine and was known as "Young Val" or "Dick". He was the son of Arthur Valentine. There was one hundred and twenty five students in the school, all setting four to six at a table and the noise and clatter of all these telegraph instruments clattering at once, was terrific. School was called by the ringing of a bell promptly at 8 o'clock followed by roll call. The whole list of students was read off by "Young Val" and each student that was there answered, "Present". Then the days work began, which consisted of sending and receiveing (mostly receiveing) what was ready by sound off of the telegraph instruments, and written down on paper. A beginner was, "put in the tub" as they boys called it and was simply sitting at a table by your self and learning the Morse Alphabet by heart. Elmer Robinson was instructor of the beginners, and the rows of tables called "Slow Freight" "Fast Freight" and I think the "express lines". Young Val or Dick was instructor od the more advanced students on the city and railroad lines. Each row of tables was called a line and as you grew more proficient in receiveing and sending you were advanced on to a faster line. I did not have all the Morse alphabet of dots and dashes memorized so I was put in the "tub". Elmer Robinson the instructor spent some time with me giveing me some suggestions on how to memorise the code, and the very next day put me at a table with an instrument and explained how it was set up, the circuit, the telegraph key and receiveing instrument the "sounder" and showed me how to send the letters on the "key" and how the letters "sounded" and gave me a lesson twice a day.
I caught on and learning fast for it was only a few days before I was put at a table with three other fellows on the slow "freight line." One boy would take turns sending while the others "received" or wrote down what was ticked off. It was very interesting as well as tiresome. There were boys there from all over the United States. If you were fortunate enough to get proficient enough to get over on the advanced rows of tables or lines you would get experience and practice off of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Rail Road wire which ran into the building, thus getting actual business as it came in off of this railroad wire. It was on Friday, Feb. 2, 1906 that I started in school at Valentines, also on that day I looked up my truck at the bus stable and told them where to take it. I made the aquaintence of Charlie Ward one of the bus drivers. He I found out latter was Edna Parkers Fiancee, he asked me what I thought of Valentines School. I replied I did not know much about it yet, but it seemed
to be O. K., Mrs. Parker my landlady was a very busy women, She took boarders and roomers and done washings. She was a motherly sort of person and the boys all liked her. Indeed she made me think of my mother back in New York State who too was always busy. William Parker her husband was an old gentleman and he run a small printing shop down the street. He did not do a very big business. His wife done more work and brought in more money into the family pocketbook than he did.
Edna Parker the oldest girl was a telephone operator. She was married to Charlie Ward sometime that spring I believe in April or May.
Nettie Parker was girl of around 14 and went to school. Her brother George was around 16 or 17 and he also went to school. He was very much interested in "horseless carriages", or they were beginning to call them "automobiles". There was a Doctor lived next door and he had an automobile and George Parker drove it for him sometimes, and cared for the car when the Doctor was busy.
Hettie Parker, George's sister, dearly loved to powder her face white. Her father when he caught sight of her with so much powder on would say "For Pete's sake girl, have you been sticking your head in the flour barrel again"? This was years before lipstick came into general use.
A few nights after I arrived, Dick Valentine brought another roomer, a Gerald Rider from Rehoboth Mass, he to, had come to Janesville to learn telegraphy and get one of those big paying jobs on the railroad. Mrs. Parker put him in with "Pat" Fanning. She boarded several other boys from Valentines but they roomed elsewhere, "Pat" or Tildon Fanning the machinist, finished plenty of entertainment evening with his violin. His favorite tunes were, My Creole Belle, and "My Irish Holly O. "Listen to the Mocking Bird, Pop goes the Weasel and many other jigs and tunes. Life passed very pleasantly that February in Janesville. Janesville was a city about the size of Ithaca. Rock River ran through the center of town. There were two Rail Roads running through the city. The Chicago & North Western and Chicago, Milwaukee and St. paul R. R. there was one train that went through every evening on the C. M. & St. Paul that I often went down to the Depot to see it come in and leave. I think it was called the Pioneer Limited. It was a long passenger and express train and had a tremendious huge locomotive to haul it. Art Demerritt my room mate and Elmer Anderson (another of Mrs. Parkers boarders) used to travel around together, and see the town, and what ever we could see, around the depots rail roads, and round houses where the locomotives were keept. The railroads and every thing pertaining to them, had a great interest to us. We dreamed of that day when we would have something to do on the railroad ourselves.
I had not been in Janesville but about two weeks when there was a fearful railroad wreck on the Chicago and North R. R.
just south of Janesville. It was a head on collision of two trains. One a freight train comeing from Chicago and an "extra" traveling south. This extra was a locomotive, several fright cars, and a passenger coach, and this extra seemed to be to blame for the collision as it pulled out from Janesville when it should have waited untill the other train coming from the south had arrived. It was a fearful wreck and a fearful scene. Both engineers and firemen were killed if I remember, and the locomotives, nothing was left of them but the boilers and wheels. The cabs and coal tenders were torn and striped off of them and freight cars and engines were piled up in the ravine south of Janesville where this occurred. This gave me a sort of a shock about working on the railroad, it put a little doubt in my mind if I wanted a job as telegraph operator or not. Suppose I thought I should make a mistake and cause such a wreck. What would they do with me? Large crowds went from Janesville on foot to view the wreck cars and see the wrecking crew with a hugh crane or lifting machine put the cars right side up and back on the rails again. The bodies of the dead engineers and firemen some of them were under the locomotives and crushed beyond recognition. A truly horrible sight. Some people said the Chicago and North Western Rail Road was always haveing wrecks anyway. The C. M. & St. Paul seldom had a wreck. I resolved that when I had to travel away from Janesville I would keep clear of the C. & N. W. Mr. valentine gave a short talk the next morning at the telegraph school to the students about the wreck and cautioned all the students on being accurate, and understanding all train orders, and signals given them. The blame for the wreck was between the dead engineer on the extra train going south and the telegraph operator at Janesville. The operator had given the engineer on the extra, his orders to proceed south but had given them before the Freight had arrived that was comeing from the south. The engineer must have mistook some other train for as being already there, for he pulled out on the main track and a few minutes latter ran head on into the train comeing around a curve that he must have thought had arrived. I may not have this explanation of the wreck very clear as I am a very green railroad man.
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