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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"On the merry-go-round of life at last I've grabbed the brass ring."
Walter Broe’s Improbable Journey from Bowery Bum to Darling of New York’s Art World

©Copyright 2015. All rights reserved by the author.

It would be difficult to imagine a less likely candidate to become darling of New York’s art world than Walter Broe. He was the only child of poor Irish immigrants. His relationship with his father was “not sweet and light” and after his father abandoned the family, his mother disappeared as well. They placed Walter in a Catholic orphanage and he tormented the nuns so much that when his father returned to claim the boy, the sisters were glad to oblige. Upon reaching adulthood, Walter Broe started a prolonged, winding, and ultimately unsuccessful, search for his long-lost mother, crisscrossing the country jumping freight train boxcars and sleeping in hobo jungles.[1] When the Great Depression arrived, Broe settled in among the nameless hordes of destitute and disposed men in Lower Manhattan’s Bowery district skid row.

During the cold winter of 1933 the Bronx-raised social realist artist Raphael Soyer and his friend Katherine Schmidt were walking near the Whitney Museum of American Art, when it was still on New York City’s Eighth Avenue, the ‘Main Street of Greenwich Village.’ They stumbled upon a poor elderly fellow using sticky chewing gum attached to a twig to fish for coins that had fallen through a subway grating. Conscious of the couple scrutinizing him, the old man (Broe) explained, “many’s the pennies and nickels one finds down there.”[2] Interrupting the commendably industrious man’s toil, the artists engaged him in conversation, learning about his nomadic adventures in search of his mother and that he was now homeless and flat broke.[3] Broe’s rough existence gave him a gaunt, worn-down appearance. Hardship seemed woven into the lines of his wrinkled, bony face; he was the very embodiment of Depression-era suffering. Raphael Soyer asked Broe to come to his studio the next day for a painting session, in exchange for small remuneration, some hot food and a bed for the night, an offer Broe quickly accepted.

On particularly cold nights, Broe used panhandled or ‘fished’ coins to pay for a bed in a Bowery flophouse, where a friend named Whitey also bedded down. The night he met Soyer and Schmidt, Broe had a noticeable case of the jitters, and Whitey asked him what was wrong. Broe replied somewhat sadly that he had been offered a steady job; Whitey seemed horrified at the prospect. You see Broe had misunderstood Soyer’s offer, thinking Raphael wanted him to come and actually paint the interior of his studio, not to serve as a model. It was going to be grueling work. “Okay Walter,” Whitey decided, “go to sleep and in the morning go over and try it out, it sounds safe enough.” The next day, Broe arrived at Soyer’s Fourteenth Street studio and proclaimed, “I’m here, gimme the brush, but I’m warning you, it’s a long time since I’ve had one of them in me hand.” Soyer, whom Broe described as “a small man, serious in mien and sensitive,” calmly explained all Broe needed to do to earn twenty-five cents per hour was sit as steadily as possible, and do nothing. This was a job he could handle. Broe proved so reliable and adept at idly sitting still, Soyer contacted several artist colleagues to recommend his new model, and eventually Broe commanded fifty-cents per hour. He was on his way to becoming a prominent member of New York City’s liberated bohemian realm.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Ebenezer “Indian” Allan: An 18th Century Walter Mitty

By Michael Keene
Copyright © 2015 by the author. All rights reserved.

from his upcoming book The Psychic Highway-The Untold Story of How the Erie Canal Changed America

Ebenezer “Indian” Allan was --- for lack of a better and/or polite word --- a character!  In familiar terms, we could call him a scam artist; an imposter; a charlatan or a very good actor. The bottom line, however, was that Indian Allan’s heart and sliding allegiances were always justified --- by him.  And, like the charming Walter Mitty character, he was convincing in his efforts and self-assigned roles.
If Indian Allan were here today, he’d surely want to tell his story, himself. What might he say, in a fictionalized version?~
“I was born on the 17th day of September in 1752 in Morris Township, New Jersey, and I died on the 13th day of April in 1813 in a place called Delaware Township, way up in Canada.”
I’ve lived most of my life in the wild, but I’ve always been for the underdog. I consider myself a friend of the Seneca Indians and the Iroquois people. I guess we trusted each other.” 
“I was down there in Pennsylvania around 1777 when something called to me to join the Loyalist unit of the war regiment under Major John Butler. You remember him! They called his rogue brigade Butler’s Rangers. Because of my good relationship with the Indians, I was sent to the Indian Department in 1781 and the following year . . . (now, make sure no one else is listening). . . I became a Loyalist spy (can you imagine that?) assigned to the Genesee River area in western New York.”
“That was a hard job, but sweet Mary Jemison made my stay easier. They called her the “White Woman of the Genesee”; the Indians adopted her when she was a little girl.   I lived with her, there, through my days of ‘espionage’.”
“Between 1782 and 1783 I moved to what would be called Mount Morris, after that rich American man with money for the war, Robert Morris.  It was winter and it was cold! I needed to provide for myself, so I started farming and trading my goods.  I was a Lieutenant with the Indian Department by then . . . but the war was coming to an end and they started letting men go. I was one of them. That’s what I got for siding with the British against these new Americans.”
“I was really laid low by this. I asked myself, ‘What can yak’ do, Indian, to help the American cause, this time?  And, my Iroquois friends?’ I decided to show ‘em something they could see with their own eyes, to let them know that I could bring about a sincere peace. “
“I knew I was taking a big chance, but I snuck into a big Indian village and into the chief’s longhouse!  I looked around for something important to signify ‘peace’.  Ah! There it was! A beauty of a wampum belt!  When the American Indian Commissioner sees this, he’ll believe it means the Iroquois want to live peacefully among the Americans and my Indian “brothers” will honor the gesture! I felt that if I could live for another few hundred years, I may even have a shot at the Nobel Peace Prize!

Ebenezer’s Plight

“Well, I spoke too soon. The British were still very mad at me and sent out a party of soldiers to hunt me down! They found me alright and threw me in prison! Since the end of the war, I was treated cruelly and inhumanly! There I was, robbed, stripped, plundered and imprisoned like some common criminal! And, for what? I was doing the right thing!  For 10 months I was shifted from prison to prison; from Fort Niagara in New York, then up to Montreal in Canada and to Cataraqui, in Ontario.”

I’m a Lover When I’m Not a Fighter

“Polygamy reduced to a fine art with a successful audacity that might excite the admiration of a Mormon elder." 3

“I made my way back to the Genesee country I knew and loved . . . and to the women I knew and loved.  I took Sally as my Indian wife by blessing of my Indian brothers. She gave me two daughters, Chloe and Mary. Around 1789 we canoed down river to a 474-acre farmstead in what would become Scottsville. Some will say the Seneca gave this land to me; others say --- because there is a deed to prove it --- that I bought it for 200 pounds in Massachusetts money from a man named Israel Chapin.”
“A Mr. Chapman came our way on his way to Niagara. His daughter, Lucy, accompanied him. He seemed to like me . . .  and so did Lucy. I wasn’t intending for it to happen, but Mr. Chapman gave me her hand in marriage. Lucy stayed and her father went west --- alone.”
“Someone would write that I ‘combined the lasciviousness of a Turk with the bloodthirstiness of a savage’ in my life with Lucy and Sally and my children . . . and others.  Social conventions meant nothing to me.  Yes, during my years in Delaware Township I was surrounded by many “wives” and more children.”
“I was living happily and was not aware of the big meeting (the Buffalo Creek Indian Council of 1787 or Treaty of Big Tree) with Mr. Oliver Phelps and Mr. Nathaniel Gorham and the Iroquois chiefs. The white men wanted a large portion of land west of the Genesee. My brothers insisted that their “Great Spirit” wanted no white men west of the great river.  Mr. Phelps said the Seneca needed a grist mill to grind maize just as white settlers needed one to ground wheat. A mill would ease women’s work.”
“Mr. Phelps said he needed --- and got --- 288-square miles west of the Genesee approximately 12 miles wide, and stretching 24-miles from Avon to Lake Ontario. He became owner of the largest mill lot in the world.”
“The grist mill needed an operator and I was the person for the job! I was given the 100-acre site with the understanding that I would build and run the mill. A small, natural island in the river helped channel water to the mill and some 3 and 4-foot waterfalls  gave enough drop in water level to turn the water wheels to fuel a sawmill and a grist mill.”
“I brought in a saw blade and managed to connect it to a makeshift water wheel to saw timber and lumber. I had help from the crew of a schooner docked nearby and from Seneca helpers. History will tell you that almost single-handedly, I cleared the land, cut and hauled logs, balanced two 150-pound millstones from Massachusetts, installed mill irons and constructed 2 water wheels.  We didn’t have fancy tools like you have today!  We used native skill, our muscles and a lot of determination. History will also tell you that we celebrated for 2 days. Yes, we did, with ‘firewater’ and much rum.”

The 100-Acre Tract That Could
Before Phelps and Gorham defaulted on their purchase agreement in 1790 and before the unsold portions of the purchase reverted back to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, they gave the 100-acre land tract, known as The Mill Yard Tract, to Ebenezer “Indian” Allen, who did successfully build a grist mill and a sawmill there. Allan built his sawmill first in the summer of 1789, then sawed timber to build his gristmill. The frame was erected in November of the same year.  There, on the Upper Falls of what would become the prosperous city of Rochester, were the beginnings of a thriving mill economy.
The location of this 100-acre tract for its first mills, however, was deeply located in the dense wilderness. While construction continued, the area was infested with snakes and mosquitoes which spread “Swamp Fever” or what is commonly known as malaria.
In March of 1792, with no settlers or land speculators interested in the surrounding land, Indian Allen sold the 100-acre tract to Benjamin Barton, Sr. of New Jersey for $1,250. Barton quickly resold the property to Samuel Ogden, an agent for Robert Morris. Ogden, in turn, sold the property in 1794 to Charles Williamson, agent for a small group of British investors called the Pulteney Association.  In 1803 the Association sold the 100-acre tract for $1,750 with a five-year land contract, to Col. Nathaniel Rochester and 2 lesser partners, Maj. Charles Carroll and Col. William Fitzhugh, all of Hagerstown, Maryland.
Nathaniel Rochester (et al) had just purchased the 100-acre tract that would become the city of Rochester, New York.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Henry Louis Drummer

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

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) 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.