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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Henry Louis Drummer


Henry Louis Drummer
By Rob't E. Yott
Copyright ©2005. All rights reserved by author.

www.unionblueenterprises.com

Author's note: "I nominated Mr. Drummer for admission to the Steuben County Wall of Fame. He was accepted in 2006."



I would like to take this opportunity to nominate to the Steuben County Hall of Fame, an unsung hero of Steuben County, Mr. Henry Louis Drummer. Only a handful of privileged individuals today know of his accomplishments of yesteryear; however, Mr. Drummer should be recognized for his work developing the Soldiers' Home ground and National Cemetery, initiating the Children’s Exhibit at the Steuben County Agricultural Fair, the annual Field-day and Basket-picnic at the Soldiers' Home and his most extravagant plan, one which never came to fruition, the Agricultural and Horticultural School to be located on the outskirts of Bath, N.Y.

His work at the Soldiers' Home was well-known during his time spent as the florist and later, Superintendent of Grounds. In 1890, Mr. Drummer’s efforts were lauded by General W.W. Averell, Inspector General of the National Home for the Disabled Volunteer Soldier. General Averell had toured the seven National Homes and 19 State Soldiers' Homes and the Bath Soldiers' Home ranked in the top three for beauty. In 1892, organizers of the World’s Fair asked for drawings, photos, and layouts of the beautiful grounds of the Soldiers' Home for exhibition.

His idea of the Children’s Exhibit at the Steuben County Agricultural Fair in 1900 was such a success that it spawned a course of nature study into the curriculum of the New York State schools. First introduced into the Steuben County school district as Class 90, Department of Nature Study Work of Steuben County on September 26, 1900, by 1901 the same course was introduced into the public school system of Rochester, N.Y. by John W. Spencer.

By 1902, Mr. Drummer had also arranged for lectures in the various churches of the town, talking of the beauties of nature as revealed in the Bible. Work was also underway to have the clergyman of other towns pick up the work as well. Another ten lectures would later be given the children over the winter of 1902-03 and on the evening of Arbor Day, May 1, 1903. The talks would be in the interest of nature study and would be held at the Casino-Opera House in Bath, N.Y.

Mr. Drummer was very patriotic also. On the passing of Major-General Henry W. Slocum, U. S. V. and President of the Board of Trustees in 1894, he created and sent a four-and-a-half foot column of roses, carnations, and lilies as a tribute on behalf of the Soldiers' Home. He also ensured that every deceased veteran had flowers provided at their funeral and hospital patients were supplied with fresh flowers in their wards.

Mr. Drummer also operated a floral shop on Liberty Street in the late 1880s, and it remained opened until at least 1910. Little is known as to the services he provided herewith.

Mr. Drummer was so respected by his peers that in a speech by Professor I.P. Roberts, Director of Cornell University, at the first annual Field Day and Basket-picnic, Roberts cited, “Steuben County had, under Mr. Drummer’s inspiration, done more in the line of Nature Study work than any other county in this state.”

Superintendent of Grounds

Born in Canandaigua, N.Y. on September 23, 1866, Henry Louis Drummer spent his boyhood in Elmira, N.Y. where he was engaged in floriculture and scenic gardening. At the age of 18 he took up residence at 10 or 12 Robie Street in Bath, N.Y. when he secured an appointment as florist at the New York State Soldiers’and Sailors’Home on November 27, 1884. Over the next 48 years, his work would bring joy and delight to the hearts and eyes of the old soldiers, officers, and visitors to the Soldiers' Home.

Mr. Drummer watched the Home grow from 240 acres of farmland to over 360 acres of sprawling gardens, flowerbeds, ponds, an apple orchard and an assortment of fountains and benches strategically placed. The peaceful, quiet solitude of the grounds was bisected by roads and walkways which he had lain out to achieve optimal effect. The Home Cemetery, which today is a National Plot, was also under his control and to which he took great pride in.

He watched the population of the Soldiers' Home steadily increase from 455 members at the time of his arrival to a peak population of over 2,000 members in 1907. By 1926, the population would dwindle to fewer than 250 veterans. Only when the Home was leased to the federal government and then absorbed into the Veterans Administration in 1930, did the population again increase to over 1,500. It was for these men that Mr. Drummer toiled so hard for.

Not much of his work was recorded at the Home or his name mentioned until May of 1887 when reporters from the Steuben Courier toured the grounds. They wrote that the 25’ x 125’ greenhouse which Mr. Drummer worked in contained 40,000 plants which were to be placed in the numerous flowerbeds artistically placed about the grounds. Mr. Drummer was also charged with setting out and maintaining the flower vases. Seventeen vases, eight of which would contain fountain attachments, would be added that summer to the dozen already in place. Other improvements noted were two rustic summerhouses built under his direction, along with fifty chairs which he built during the past winter.
By 1889, we learn more of Mr. Drummer’s skills. In early January, Mr. Drummer had published an album of photos of the Soldiers' Home, showing the various flower gardens and vases. This album made for a very nice souvenir booklet, and copies were made available to the public. More booklets would follow in succeeding years, showing different photos of the Home.
           
Over the course of the summer, a roadway, under Mr. Drummer’s guidance, was constructed along the river from the Main Entrance and intersecting with Longwell Lane behind the buildings. Today known as River Road, this byway was built up to contain the river during the spring months, when the river would flow over its bank and damage the gardens. A large quantity of rich loam had been excavated from the site of the new road and replaced with stone from the gravel pit. This was then topped with gravel, making a very sound roadway. Mr. Drummer knew that by depositing the excavated loam into depressions in the garden made by the flooding, it would enhance its yield.

Mr. Drummer also encouraged the inmates (members) of the Home in the botanical and gardening academics. During the Steuben County Fair in 1889, four cabbages from the Home were entered in the produce exhibit, the largest weighing in at 50 pounds. Mr. Drummer’s own display was a magnificent floral arrangement. Set up in the main building, the display consisted of two moss mounds, built up and covered with flowers. Situated between the two was a small pond adorned with aquatic birds. Several doves had been pinioned to the flowers.

Mr. Drummer also had charge of laying-out and surveying the ever-increasing Home Cemetery which was established in 1879. In 1891, under his supervision, the quartermaster, and 30 men were busy excavating a new pond in the 10-acre plot. The pond was strategically placed to collect the runoff due to heavy rain that destroyed the road below the cemetery.

Mr. Drummer’s dedication to his work is evident when, on September 7, 1893, a severe hailstorm had occurred causing considerable damage. Hailstones one inch in diameter broke a majority of the glass on the greenhouse. (As the Soldiers' Home grew, the greenhouse was expanded to meet the need. One thousand dollars had been procured from the Post Fund for such purpose, and the greenhouse was enlarged and would contain nearly 30,000 square feet of glass.) Nearly all the sashes on the windows suffered damage, as well as the crops and fruits. Surprisingly, General Rogers, Superintendent of the Home, submitted in his Annual Report that the farm and garden, under direction of the florist, Mr. Drummer, had produced a product better in quality and quantity than in previous years.

In 1897, a Buffalo newspaper mentioned crowds exceeding 10,000 visitors arriving at the Home on weekends during the summer. They came from as far as Buffalo, Rochester and even New York City to hear the Soldiers’Home band and to take in the beautiful grounds.

On May 12, 1904, Mr. Drummer received an increase in pay and was now earning $75 a month.

In his first Florist’s Report (an addendum to the Commandant’s Annual Report) in 1908, we can now experience and appreciate Mr. Drummer’s full realm of responsibility. Mr. Drummer submitted that the ornamental grounds now covered 55 acres, twenty of which was cemetery. The lawns and drives were all bordered with shade trees and shrubs. The seven-acre parade ground, or plaza, was laid out with walks and flowerbeds, and the American flag floated from a staff that rose 110 feet in the air. The plaza contained 150 lawn benches, all handmade on the grounds, on which the old veterans could rest under the shade trees.

Eighty-one flowerbeds decorated the grounds, and 31 large iron vases now graced the Home, four of which were connected with spray attachments, giving the double effect of vase and fountain. Four of the larger flowerbeds also had spray attachments that gave the affects of a fountain for the surrounding grounds.

Of the 70,000 plants grown annually in the greenhouse, sixty-five thousand were used for bedding and 5,000 for vases. Cut flowers were furnished for Chapel services and funerals and other occasions that required them.

The 4,066 ornamental trees were of the following: 31 varieties of deciduous trees, ten varieties of coniferous trees and 2,225 decorative shrubs of about 40 varieties. (Drummer had propagated a rare line of ferns, palms, shrubs, and flowers.) An apple orchard consisting of 405 trees was located southwest of the Home. The orchard had been pruned and sprayed, and Mr. Drummer mentioned that it formed a floral backdrop to the hill located behind it.

Around the twenty-acre cemetery, 1,500 evergreens formed a natural enclosure, giving the cemetery a cul de sac feature and made for a picturesque background to the Home grounds. There were now 2,420 graves as of October 1, 1908. Most were properly marked with headstones, while wooden markers were emplaced for those awaiting their markers. On Memorial Day, each grave received a flag.
The grounds now had 23,700 running feet of winding drives, 13,320 running feet of gravel walks, 7,740 feet of cement walks and 3,480 of stone walks. The grass throughout the grounds was kept short during the summer, and the drives and walks were properly trimmed.

By 1909, Henry L. Drummer was listed as Superintendent of Grounds. His work did not stop here ,however. Entertainment was another one of the many undertakings that he was charged with, and he oversaw this project with zeal. Ball games, Children’s Day, concerts and picnics (fourteen picnics from different churches and organizations) took place at the Soldiers' Home under his guidance that year. Also, four automobile parties took place at the Home throughout the year.

Mr. Drummer had also noted in his report that, with the aid of the quartermaster, one hundred 5” by 7” photographs had been taken, finished and mounted by his department. These were to be used as the New York State Soldiers’and Sailors’Home exhibit at the State Fair, which occupied a space in the new building erected for exhibits from State institutions. 

On November 1, 1909, he installed in the Assembly Hall a moving picture plant. Families and relatives of employees enjoyed the feature films free of charge, while non-employees paid the nominal fee of ten cents. From December 1909, to September 30, 1910, forty-one moving pictures were shown. By the end of September 1911, one hundred and four moving pictures were shown. The appeal of the moving picture plant was so great that it was necessary to rearrange the seating in the Amusement Hall, increasing accommodations from 1,200 members to 1,600.

  By September 10, 1910, he reported that daily concerts were given between four and five p.m. during the summer, totaling 109 band concerts. Six lectures, 29 concerts, and one minstrel show were given at the Amusement Hall. On Flag Day, Mr. Drummer procured 2,500 flags that were displayed upon the grounds, and a fine display of fireworks was offered.

In 1912, Mr. Drummer requested $500.00 to repair the three ponds in the cemetery. These ponds were used in times of heavy rain to prevent washing out the drives and grounds. They also helped prevent the hospital from flooding. He requested another $500.00 for re-grading the old section of the cemetery, which consisted of about four acres. The boxes in this area were giving way, and the graves and headstones were “scutting.” He also requested $1,000.00 to rebuild River Drive.

In the grounds department, Mr. Drummer reported that 10,000 tulip bulbs had been bedded about the grounds for spring flowering and 76,000 plants had been grown and used in bedding and in filling the numerous vases stationed on the grounds. 

As for funerals, Mr. Drummer wrote that civilian employees dug and filled all the graves. For the past year, he reported that “. . . 127 graves [had] been dug out and filled, at a cost of 150 days or $255.00.” Four citizen employees, clad in full khaki uniform, the same as the United States Army, acted as pallbearers at a cost of 120 days or $204.00 for the year. (It is unsure what is meant by his cost of so many days.)

The graves were then properly marked with a headstone bearing the name, company, and regiment of the soldier or sailor, or by a marker bearing the number of the cemetery record, which was kept in the cemetery office. (It appears that Mr. Drummer was responsible for ordering and replacing the grave markers as well.)

One of Mr. Drummer’s recommendations was the purchase of a twelve-ton steamroller at a cost of $3,000. He mentioned that many automobiles on the fine State roads allowed more visitors on State grounds. Due to the number of visitors at the Home, he believed that this purchase would be a wise investment. The cost of renting a steam roller was 7-10 dollars a day; an investment in such a piece of equipment would surely pay for itself, not to mention the cost of labor. He also pointed out that when repairs on roads were needed, it was hard to acquire this equipment on short notice.

In 1915, Mr. Drummer gave his usual report for the year, relating work done about the grounds. However, one item which stands out is that fifteen basketball games were played in the Assembly Hall during the year. This was the last report given by Mr. Drummer so we do not know much about other work or improvements he made. We do know that during the 1920s, appropriations for the Soldiers' Home was diminishing. There was talk of closing the Home or converting it for other uses, but the American Legion of Bath and the Chamber of Commerce fought to keep the lovely Home open for our veterans. In a concerted effort, they convinced the federal government that the Home, with its beautiful grounds, should be part of the National Home system. This finally came to be in 1930. Mr. Drummer should receive his share of the credit for this considering he labored long and tirelessly, laying out the grounds in such a manner as deemed practicable.


Children’s Exhibition

In 1900, the average population at the Soldiers' Home reached 1,500 men. The grounds now consisted of 365 acres, 40 of which were considered ornamental. Although Mr. Drummer continued to develop the grounds and cemetery, his love of nature, and the joy he received, knowing his work was being appreciated by both young and old, inspired him to further with his work.

In February of 1900, he attended the annual meeting of the Central New York Horticultural Society, of which he was a member, in Syracuse, N.Y. (Other records state he was a member of the Western New York Horticultural Society.) It was here that Mr. Drummer received “A Few Reminders” card from President S.T. Betts.
Two questions on the card read:
1. What are you doing for those around you?
2. What can you do for others?

In his writings, Mr. Drummer explains how he had pondered these questions. Question No. 1 was answered,  “. . . that after 20 plus years as landscaper, gardener and florist of the Home, he had plenty of opportunities to gladden the eyes and hearts of the officers, troops and visitors.” It then came to him that the answer to question No. 2 was to “Go into the public schools and there with the children of tender hearts and receptive minds work out the problem.”

Mr. Drummer not only wanted to teach the children the usefulness and feasibility of things belonging to the study of agriculture and horticulture, he also wanted to teach the children  “. . . the works of the Almighty, the beauties of nature and the provisions the laws of nature made for the continuance of the kind by generation or by successive production in annual plant life.” He wanted adults and children alike to appreciate all that nature had to offer. Mr. Drummer truly believed, according to his writings, that “we are but little better than plant life and no better than earth itself.” Mr. Drummer confessed in his writings that he had before only had a vague and uncertain understanding of the nature study work.

It was these thoughts that prompted Mr. Drummer to formulate plans to introduce the Children’s Exhibit at the Steuben County Agricultural Fair.


“The love of nature seems to be instinctive in most children.”

With this thought in mind, Mr. Drummer set a precedent that continues today. He first approached the Steuben County Agricultural Society on April 4, 1900 with a proposal. His plan was to encourage school-children to take up nature study during the spring and summer and the result of their work to be exhibited at a proposed Children’s Exhibit at the Steuben County Agricultural Fair on September 26 of that year. The committee, impressed with the notion, agreed to allow use of half the second floor of main building (Fair House) for such purpose. They also offered to absorb the cost of printing material out of the society funds.
Armed with this support, Mr. Drummer approached the businessmen of Bath seeking donations of goods or money to award the competitors. His call was answered with promises of prizes amounting to $216.65.

With his premium list made and ten rules to govern the entries, Mr. Drummer sent out a greeting to parents and children of Bath and its vicinity (county), inviting the children to participate in the program. Mr. Drummer provided, free of charge, valuable seeds of flowers and vegetables that the children were to sow and care for with their own hands. Each competitor was to keep an accurate, written record of their entry and know every detail of their exhibit.

Mr. Drummer did not stop with just floriculture and horticulture; he also offered premiums for best collections of insects, bugs, and butterflies as well. Because he believed in a well-rounded pupil and to ensure the imagination of all children were addressed, topics such as The Culture of Flowers or Insects and Their Use in Vegetation were provided for which students could write and enter essays on. Emphasis was placed on composition and penmanship.

Competitors could enter any one of the 113 classes offered. These classes were broken down into five sections: potted plants, cut flowers, vegetables, insects, and miscellaneous. The prize list ranged from a $15 silver-cup to a $2 bicycle tire to $1 cash.
On June 1, 1900, a greeting and premium list were sent out to local area schools including Hammondsport, Prattsburg, Cohocton, and a number of country schools in one Miss Ostrander’s School-Commissioner’s district. The result was 580 packets of seeds, 193 packets of flower and 387 packets of vegetable being distributed.

On September 26, 1900, the first Children’s Exhibit opened at the fair with Mayor Shannon giving the opening address. With music provided by the Soldiers' Home band, speeches were made by Professor W.T. Palmer, principal of Haverling High School and Professors S.H. Bailey and M.V. Shingerland, both of Cornell University; the two latter, along with C.E. Hunn, also of Cornell University would be the judges for the event.

There is no exact number of entrants for the first year given, but we do know that 46 prizes amounting to $89.50 were awarded to the students of Bath and vicinity. The judges and speakers were so impressed by the affair that they unanimously commended Mr. Drummer for his efforts. It was then decided to make the Children’s Day at the fair a permanent feature.

The popularity of the exhibit was such that by the next year, 1901, the exhibition occupied the entire second floor of the main building. Two thousands greetings had been sent out to boys and girls, inviting them from throughout the county. The prizes offered amounted to over $300. There were 405 entries in the 113 classes and 87 prizes, valuing at $272, was awarded, the judges paying a second place premium as well. (Another source states there were 600 more entries for 1901 and double that for 1902.)

By 1902, there would be approximately 1,000 entries. A new feature, “Grade Works” was now introduced. The students of Haverling-Union School submitted pen and pencil work, some consisting of artistic merit. Essays on a larger variety of topics were also entered. Awards in this category were payable to the Board of Education or Trustees of the School for improvement of the school or grounds. This enabled the student to give back to their school.

Because his writings end in 1902, we do not have more information for the following year. We do know that he was now known beyond the realms of Steuben County. The Honorable Charles W. Gillette, from the Committee on Expenditure in the Department of Agriculture, House of Representative in Washington D. C. wrote Mr. Drummer, promising to send an astounding 5,000 packets of seeds for the year 1903.

Mr. Drummer was now the Manager of the Department of Nature Study Work and in his report, he referred to the boys and girls as the Steuben Nature Study Workers. He noted that the children were now attempting to outdo one another which he expressed was most gratifying to him.


Field Day and Basket-picnic

To help promote the nature study program, Mr. Drummer also organized a Field Day and Basket-picnic for the entire community at the Soldiers' Home on July 17, 1901. A conservative estimation by the Steuben Courier put the number of visitors to the Home at 1,500. Counting the officers, veterans, and employees of the Home, there was over 3,000 in attendance. The itinerary was for two baseball games, basket lunches, lectures and music by the Soldiers' Home band. The day began at 10:30 a.m. when the Juniors of Bath took on and defeated the Juniors of Hammondsport 15-12. Lunch was at noon and small parties dined in the shady nooks or upon the riverbanks of the Home grounds. At one o’clock, acting commandant Azariah Brundage introduced the speakers, Dr. W.H. Jordan, Director of the Geneva Experiment Station and Professor I.P. Roberts, Director of Cornell University.

The gathering was another success for Mr. Drummer. It was decided to make the picnic an annual affair, the next one planned for July 16, 1902. Over 3,000 visitors converged upon the Home for the fete. Incoming trains brought carloads of visitors; 200 from Hornellsville and another 200 from Corning alone. Schools and Sunday schools had chosen this day for their annual picnics as well.
In 1903, unseasonable weather kept the out-of-town crowds at bay; however, the local young folk ventured to the Home. A crowd of approximately 1,000 had gathered for the annual event and the Steuben Courier reported that the affair at the Home was another success. It is unknown how many years this event continued, but it is known that other events, such as the 21st Annual Old Folks’Outing was held at the Soldiers’Home in 1921.


Agricultural and Horticultural School

In his writings and the correspondence therein, we learn that during the turn of the century, farming was becoming less of a lucrative business. It is unclear as to why this was, but it was during this time, in 1901, that Mr. Drummer announced plans for his greatest endeavor, an Agricultural and Horticultural School, to be located in Bath, N.Y. This idea was supported wholeheartedly by his friends -  Professors S.H. Bailey and J.E. Hunn of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

While expanding the minds of the children with nature studies, he found that the boys and girls of the towns and villages were eager for such work; however, their counterparts on the farm expressed indifference to the idea. School learning was also considered secondary on the farm, where life was a tremendous hardship. He was convinced that when a lad became of age, he would leave the farm to take on different vocation. What could be done to remedy this? Mr. Drummer believed that “a model school” would change the life of farming from an occupation of hard toil to one of contentment.

In his project outline, Mr. Drummer wrote that the purpose of the school was to “Embrace life on a farm as a noble and renumerative [sic] occupation.” And “To stimulate pupils to learn more.” He gave every detail, which included expenses and fees, course of study, number of staff members, Board of Managers, Constitution and By-Laws, and even what was expected of the student in social settings. An Endowment Fund would be established, and a student need only pay $5 to enroll; board, tuition, and books would be provided.

Mr. Drummer also submitted a detailed drawing of his plans which included over thirty buildings which would house, to name a few, the library, bakery chapel, chemical laboratory, veterinary building, dining hall, kitchen, lecture hall, repair shops, sheep barns, horse barns, poultry buildings, cow barn, dormitory, gymnasium, and many other buildings for other uses. This would all sit on a large plot between Lake Salubria and the Conhocton River.

The school would be open to boys and girls between the ages of 16-20 and would last 26 weeks; from October 15 until April 15. The plan of study would primarily be agriculture and horticulture, but a student would also need to be articulate in Basic English, Reading, Penmanship, Arithmetic, US History, and Physical Geography on an eighth grade level. Lectures would be given in the evenings, and the pupils would be required to attend church with their families on Sundays.

Upon success of the 26-week course, Mr. Drummer also proposed plans for a two-year course which offered a progressive course and a more elaborate curriculum. Here, he gave details on the Board of Control, made up of twelve males and five females, the US Secretary of Agriculture, the Governor of New York, the President of the College of Agriculture and the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Mr. Drummer’s proposal was sent out among the most prominent of men in the agricultural and political community. Letters of endorsements were received by the Honorable Charles W. Gillette, Professors I.P. Roberts, S.H. Bailey, and John Craig of Cornell University; W.H. Jordan of the N.Y. Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y., James Wilson, Department of Agriculture, Ira Davenport, T.S. Peterson and Benjamin Gage of Peterson’s Nursery, Chicago, Ill., and Mr. D. Bander of the Pleasant Valley Wine Co. in Rheims, N.Y.

As of today, it is not known the exact reason why Mr. Drummer’s plan did not come about. It was certainly not due to lack of approval or support. According to the 1900-1903 Proceedings of the Western New York Horticultural Society, where Mr. Drummer's name appears in the list of members, there was great deal of talk about increasing the state's agricultural education and extension work. However, the talks were geared more towards bolstering Cornell's Ithaca campus facilities for agriculture. No mention of a proposed agricultural or horticultural school at Bath cropped up in these reports.

Sources from Cornell University believe that the need for improving agricultural education among the rural population was great at that time but that any allocated money was going into Cornell's Ithaca campus. The findings and publications would, from there, circulate among the state's farmers and thus raise the general knowledge level. This is very likely since there is a brief mention of the agricultural school at Ovid having been a failure.

As we can see, Mr. Henry Louis Drummer, a virtual unknown today, was at the turn of the century the epitome of nature study. He held the respect of acclaimed professors from the University of Cornell, the Geneva Experiment Station and the gratitude of the officers and members of the Soldiers' Home and the local community. His ideas and dreams reached as far as Washington, D. C. His obituary credited him with securing legislation in which the state paid premiums for flowers and vegetables grown by students.

Because of his work, the Board of Education of Haverling High School resolved on August 11, 1902, to “express their approbation and acknowledgement of the faith and disinterested work, our townsman Mr. H.L. Drummer has set before him as a task and a labor of love for the children, and that we hereby tender our thanks for the good work, heretofore done, hoping that Mr. Drummer may continue his work among the children, and that success may follow his deserving work in Nature Study.”

He was so much adored that, on a Saturday morning, June 30, 1932, his last day of service at the Soldiers' Home, a very touching and well-deserved tribute was paid him. As Mr. Drummer, accompanied by the officers of the Home, walked one last time down the road leading away from the Home and into retirement, nearly 1,000 veterans lined both sides of the avenue. As he passed, each man rendered him a salute. At the limit of the grounds, the Home Governor, Colonel Bringham, offered appreciation on behalf of the institution and the members for his long years of faithful service.

Today, the work Mr. Drummer is still evident as you stroll among the National Cemetery, which is considered one of the nicest in the country. Covering approximately 30 acres, it is well-kept and maintained; a most serene and fitting resting place for the heroes of our country. The grounds of the VA unfortunately, do not hold the splendor or magnificence it once had. Gone are the beautiful and extravagant gardens, the shady nooks, the large greenhouse, vases and handmade lawn furniture. Some blame mismanagement, misappropriation of funds, or cuts in funding. In any event, the sad fact of the matter is the Home has never been able to maintain or achieve the striking features it once had under the care of our Mr. Drummer. His dreams and contributions to nature study also abound today. Just go to any local county fair and there you will find the children’s exhibit, compliments of Mr. Drummer who wanted to instill among the youths of his day, the same love, and respect for Mother Nature as he felt.

About the author: Robert Yott, author of From Soldiers’ Home to Medical Center lives in Mitchellsville and is a carpenter by trade. He built his own cannon with limber and his unit represents Wheeler’s Battery at Civil War reenactment, parades and educational programs. A portion of his artifacts from the Civil War and Bath Soldiers’ Home collection will be on display beginning September 2012 at the New York State Museum in Albany as part of their exhibition commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. 



Saturday, February 7, 2015

First to Stand for Women’s Suffrage in St. Lawrence County:
Helen M. Hinsdale Rich

By Bryan Thompson

Copyright @2015. All rights reserved by author.

Helen Hinsdale Rich with her daughter Mary.
Mary was born in 1857, photograph circa 1861.
Helen Rich’s biography in A Woman of the Century: Fourteen Hundred-seventy Biographical Sketches Accompanied by Portraits of Leading American Women in all Walks of Life states, “She was the first woman of northern New York to embrace woman’s suffrage.” A letter detailing the Rich family history written to the Rev. Roger F. Williams in 1923 states, “Mrs. (Helen) Rich.at the age of 35, she was an advocate of woman’s sufferage- the first one in her county – St Lawrence Co. N.Y.” The Sacramento Daily Recorder described her as, “well known in the East as an earnest worker in the cause of woman’s rights and temperance.” While all these sources mention Helen Hinsdale Rich’s contributions to the woman’s suffrage movement there is almost no mention of her involvement in the 100’s of entries about her in the local press.

If Helen H. Rich was 35 when she became the first suffragette in St Lawrence County the year was 1862. The same year Helen Rich gained wide acclaim as a public speaker, as she campaigned, from Richville, around the North Country recruiting for the Union army.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Historic Homer: Gateway to Heritage Tourism in Central New York

Photo of proposed Lincoln Monument Project at the 
Homer Town Hall. Photo by David P. Quinlan. Concept 
by Sculptor Frank Porcu.
By Martin Sweeney
Copyright @2015. All rights reserved by author.

Holidays are much more than festive occasions on a calendar. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and Presidents Day provide an opportunity to set aside some time to remember persons and events of the past that have significantly shaped our values, traditions, and collective identity as a people. There are, however, some persons and events of the past that are worthy of on-going commemoration in a physical form. These persons and events often have public spaces set aside to honor them with plaques, markers, street names, preserved architecture, and statuary.

Residents of Central New York are or should be keenly aware that their region abounds with historical personages worthy of memorialization. Clinton Square in Syracuse has statuary recalling the famous public rescue in 1851 of William “Jerry” Henry from the enforcers of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Another runaway slave, Harriet Tubman, has her final residence in Auburn dedicated to her participation as a “conductor” in the Underground Railroad movement. Auburn, too, is the site of a statue of William Henry Seward, the secretary of state in the Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson presidencies. Nearby, Seward’s residence, brimming with artifacts, has been wisely preserved and is open to public inspection.


Out of the Great Depression:
The Experience of the Town of Salem, New York

By William A. Cormier 
Salem NY Town/village historian
Copyright @2015. All rights reserved by author.


The people of Salem, New York, like other people across the nation, were tossed about in the stormy sea of the Great Depression. Some people suffered more economic plight than others; some felt no hardship at all. One’s status in life at this time was often the result of Lady Luck who showed no bias in distributing both bad and good luck across all classes of society. Nevertheless, those who suffered the most emerged like hardened steel--tempered to a strong work ethic and loyal to family and neighbors in need. Born in 1936, this author was a Depression baby whose childhood days were filled with stories of the family hardships.

“Get a good job, keep it, and save your money,” my mother would admonish, and “If someone is in need--family, friend, or neighbor, help them out.” My mother wasn’t alone in her advice. My father who understood the importance of finding and holding a job said, “When you get a job, no matter how menial, do the best you can.” My parents and my siblings lived the Depression, this author heard about it--and often.

In Salem and throughout Washington County, it was not dust bowl winds of Oklahoma, like those described in John Steinbeck’s classic The Grapes of Wrath, that blew away the future of the local farmers, it was low agricultural and milk prices and banks demanding the mortgage payments. In a way, people living in small towns in rural areas often faired better than their counterparts living in the cities or those who relied on industry for work and had no farms to go back to. With the exception of the “dust bowl,” farmers who lost everything to drought and to heartless banks who literally bulldozed them off their land, those with small family farms or a barn and a garden in the back yard, such as one finds in the village of Salem today, managed to get by without much money. Growing ones own vegetables and raising ones own animals for meat, sustained many a family through out the ten-year Depression. Being self-reliant and knowing how to work the land was an asset.

 

Monday, January 19, 2015

“plunged into bloody strife”
New York State and the Outbreak of War in 1914

By Robert G. Waite
©Copyright 2015. All rights reserved by the author.

                                                                                   
“All Europe Prepares for a Mighty War,” read the headline on the front page of New York City’s The Evening World on July 28, 1914, as tensions on the continent moved steadily from threats toward open combat. The same issue of the New York City daily announced that “Actual War Begun by Austria” when the Dual Monarchy rejected England’s call for a peace conference. A number of New York newspapers began publishing on their front page a “War Bulletins” or “War Crisis At Glance,” which offered its readers a capsule summary of the most recent developments, an aid to those eager for a quick over-view.[1] A few days later, on August 1, 1914, the German ambassador to Czarist Russia delivered the declaration of war to his Russian counterpart that set in motion the conflict that quickly spread from a squabble in the Balkans to a European wide war of attrition.[2] That same day a special “War Extra!” edition of The Evening World carried big front page headlines announcing: “Germany Declares War; All Europe in Arms.” Already more than 7.4 million men in the belligerent nations had already answered the call to arms and the newspaper told readers that the warring states could field 32.5 million soldiers. This threatened to be a war of unprecedented dimensions. “A huge European war staggers the imagination,” the editor of The Binghamton Press observed.[3] The entire front page of The New York Tribune was devoted to news of the war and the headline read “Germany Declares War on Russia.”[4]

Throughout the first months of the conflict the American public and especially readers throughout New York State followed closely the rapidly developing events through their major sources of information, local newspapers and magazines. And for good reasons did the press offer a continuous and comprehensive coverage. “Our interest in the European struggle has its broadest basis in the fact that we are a nation of European immigrants,” an editor of The Literary Digest observed in the August 15th issue as he explained the extensive press coverage.[5] New York’s Governor, Martin Henry Glynn, reminded an assembly of workers in late August that there was “not a single European nation involved in the present struggle which is not bound to this country by ties of blood and national esteem.”[6] This deep-seated interest was genuine, and New York’s press moved quickly to keep abreact of the breaking news. The New York Times had already stationed correspondents throughout Europe and the articles they submitted to their home papers were picked up and reprinted in small towns far and wide. Reporters for the Associated Press, United Press, Reuters, and the International News Service based in Europe sent back accounts daily and these too were transmitted to newspapers across the nation. Each day, many of the newspapers in the smaller, regional markets throughout the state carried up to several articles on the growing diplomatic crisis and the outbreak of war. The editors shared the mounting and widespread concern, plus news of war sold newspapers. Albany, New York’s newspaper the Times-Union, a daily that served the Capital District, a cluster of several mid- sized cities in upstate New York, ran front-page stories on the war throughout the summer of 1914, even a regular article entitled simply “The War News For Busy Readers.” It termed the conflict “appalling and disastrous” in an August 4th editorial. Local newspapers across the state that served a smaller readership and appeared only weekly carried “War Bulletins,” front page summaries of the events of the conflict.[7]

Friday, January 16, 2015

Catholic Labor Education On The Great Lakes:
Fr. John Boland and the Diocesan Labor College of Buffalo


by
©Copyright 2015. All rights reserved by the author.
            

From the late nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth centuries religion, particularly the American Catholic Church, actively participated with unions to correct injustices at the work place and to Christianize the social order. Buffalo’s labor priest Father John Boland viewed the Church and organized labor as partners: “the Church not only favors trade unions,” he stated, “but demands that they be formed. It demands that they be formed and operated along Christian lines.”[1]

It was the vision of Fr. Boland, other Catholics, who believed that this could be accomplished primarily through Catholic labor education. However, adapting the American Catholic Church to that purpose required the reorientation of the clergy and the bold infusion of the laity into the cause of labor and education. There was a prevalent need for labor leaders who were trained in the application of morality and ethics in the workplace. They would not divorce daily life from religion but invariably seek principled solutions.

An educated Catholic worker epitomized an advanced worker who recognized sane corrective actions to labor challenges. As the nation’s economic conditions oscillated for wage earners a response to this situation was required by the American Catholic Church. But who would emerge as the leaders in this movement and what form would it take? This paper will illustrate how American Catholicism formatted a paradigm to this quest that was both traditional and yet resonated with American innovative qualities. That mission incorporated education and the enhanced role of the laity. This mission began effectively in Buffalo, New York with Fr. John Boland and the Catholic labor college.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont: The Populist of Bellevue Avenue

by Andrew Lavoie, Providence College
©Copyright 2015. All rights reserved by the author.


The “Brilliant Belmonts” of Rhode Island and New York were the “most wonderful triumvirate in the history of this country” wrote the Anaconda Standard in 1895.[1] Born into extreme wealth and privilege, Perry, August and Oliver Belmont dominated America fiscally, politically, and socially. The traditional viewpoint, of both contemporaries and modern historians, has always centered on the idea that Perry served as the leading political figure of the three while August maintained their father’s banking business and Oliver simply existed to maintain the prestige and power of the Belmont’s in society. This idyllic picture of the three brothers existing in harmony, each as a master of his particular sphere, could not be farther from the truth. In reality, the three Belmonts were rivals who competed with each other throughout their lives for the affection of their father and the recognition of the nation. The one brother that attempted to transcend those generalizations was Oliver. Oliver has often been depicted merely as a socialite who was far more comfortable in the elite circles of Newport and New York. This depiction fails to fully capture the essence of Oliver and how contemporaries recognized Oliver at the peak of his popularity. Oliver Belmont was an engaged member of society who, despite his familial struggles, continuously sought recognition for his own personal achievements.

Although many of these attempts were met with failure, Oliver found an unlikely ally in William Jennings Bryan. Oliver used Bryan as a political aid to try his own political machinations and, as a result, he actually unseated his brothers and became the premier member of the Belmont family. The tensions between Oliver and his family drove him into the arms of an all too eager William Jennings Bryan, however, in doing so Oliver irrevocably alienated himself from the remaining Belmont family members. Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont was not merely a socialite but rather he was a politically active, socially motivated individual who, in his own time, many viewed as an early progressive who campaigned in favor of creating a new society far different from the gilded shores of Newport or the busy streets of New York.