Monday, September 25, 2017

A map of the farm (or at least the area) from 1855


This is from a map of Chenango County in the Library of Congress, which can be seen online here. Do enlarge for detail. The house marked "J. Tefft" was ours. The house marked "L. Collins" is the McCrackens' house.  (L. Collins is Levi B. Collins, who was one of a large family of children who grew up in our old house.)  The initials "S.M." by the creek on the other side of the road from our house stand for saw mill. You'll remember the stone foundations of the mill by the bridge, and I believe the Warrens' house was a remnant of the mill buildings.

Look at the little house labeled "T. Brooks" on the hill above the saw mill.  From old history books, I think it was the location where the Collins family who first lived on our farm built a log cabin,  before they built the house that became ours, with planks from their saw mill. When we still lived there I hunted around on the hill a few times trying to find any hint of the location of that cabin, but I never could.

Here's more about the Collins family, who originally settled our farm in 1794. They were the third non-Indian family to settle in Smyrna. Once they arrived, they built a grist mill, a saw mill, and later a fulling factory that made wool fabric in the stream and field across the road:

 Joseph COLLINS and Joseph BILLINGS, the former of whom married the latter's sister Betsey, came from Somers, Tolland county, Conn., in the winter season bringing their families on ox sleds. They settled on 160 acres previously selected in the north part of the town, COLLINS on the farm now owned by Thomas BROOKS, and occupied by Deloss Brooks, and BILLINGS on the place now owned and occupied by his son Harlow Brooks. Both resided where they settled till their death. COLLINS died of a fever in Westfield, Chautauqua county, in 1841, while returning from a visit to his son Alonzo in Michigan; and his wife, on the homestead, June 19, 1848, aged 77. BILLINGS died May 18, 1847, aged 74, and his wife "Aby" POMEROY, of Somers, Conn., Sept. 1, 1851, aged 84.
    Joseph Collins was a clothier, and carried on that business in connection with farming. About 1818 he erected clothing works just below the saw-mill on Collins' creek [This stream is variously known as Collins' and Billings' Creek or Brook.], and carried on the carding and cloth-dressing business till 1840, when he sold to his sons Levi and Warren, who continued it together seven years, when they disposed of the same.
    Joseph Collins and Joseph Billings were interested in the construction of a saw-mill on the same stream. It occupied the site of the saw-mill now owned by Levi Collins. It was built in 1795, and was the first mill erected in the town. A run of stones was soon after put in, and proved a great accommodation to the settlers of that period, who had previously carried their grists to Cooperstown. It was abandoned as a grist-mill about the time the grist-mill in the village was built.
The saw-mill has been continued to the present day, three or four buildings having been erected on the site. Collins & Billings owned the property till about 1835, when the latter sold his interest to Collins and his sons.
The property has since been in the possession of the Collins family.
The mill contains three circular saws-log, wood and splitting saws.
    Joseph COLLINS' children were Betsey, Grace, Joseph, Warren, Myron, Marcia, Loren, Joseph W., Levi B., Alonzo and William W.

I'm pretty sure that the house built by the other brother on the shared 160-acre lot, "now occupied by H. Brooks" must have been McCrackens' house. It makes sense, if you think about the way our lot wrapped around theirs and Portugal.

And here's more from an early history of Smyrna about the arrival of the Collins family. I'm pretty sure that the "log house" is the same cabin marked "T Brooks" on the map.

"John Billings of Somers, Tolland County, Ct., bought one thousand acres of government land for his children in the north part of the town but did not come here in person. His oldest son, Joseph W., was bom in 1773, and when he became of age married Abi Pomeroy of his native town, and during the following winter ( 1794) immigrated to Smyrna with his sister Betsey and her husband Joseph Collins. They came with a yoke of oxen, two cows and a sleigh load of goods. The cows, causing much annoyance by running into the woods, were finally put ahead of the oxen and made to assist in drawing the load. Arriving here they settled on the hill west of the creek, as they feared to locate in the valley on account of fever and ague, a disease in those days much to be dreaded, usually affecting newly settled regions. Billings was said to have been handy with tools, could fix wagons, shoe horses, and do almost any kind of work. At first they built a log house which was superseded by a framed structure in 1812, a portion of which is still standing, and also a small grist mill on the site of the present saw mill, and as the nearest mill was in Oneida County, nearly forty miles away, they did quite a business for their neighbors and friends until a larger mill was built at the village- It is stated that the bolt through which the flour was sifted, was the result of the handiwork of Mrs. Collins, and while no doubt the color of the flour was not the very whitest, nor its quality the finest, we are willing to guarantee its sweetness of taste was never surpassed, by that of any flour made by any modem appliances."

(Apparently cows "causing much annoyance" were a legacy that ran with the land.)

Here's more  about Levi B. Collins, who grew up in our old house in what's described as a "musical" family, later lived in the house that now belongs to Jeremy and Serenity, and became a prominent citizen of Smyrna:

 Joseph Collins and wife settled on the present Brooks farm, a clothier who built 
a cloth dressing establishment on Cold Brook just below the pres- 
ent saw mill. The ruins of the old flume are still discernible. 

They were frugal, industrious people, much interested in church and society affairs,
greatly respected by all. 

Their children were Betsey, Grace, Warren, Myron, Marcia, 
Loren, Levi B., Alonzo and William, each growing up under 
the teachings of parents who firmly believed in the old puritanic 
doctrines and all seemed to profit by their thorough discipline, all 
having a deep regard for all things pertaining to the moral and 
spiritual welfare of the community. 

They were said to be a musical family and William became 
a preacher. 

The name of Levi B. Collins stands out most prominently to 
the people of our time, as his whole life was spent among us, a
christian man of sterling character, faithful to his church and 
community, a musician of rare ability and a most excellent 
citizen, a deacon and choir leader in the Congregational Church 
for many years and a very successful teacher of music in this 
and adjoining towns for more than sixty years. 
I can't believe I never posted any of this before - I started gathering historical records of the farm shortly after we moved there. I apologize if I'm repeating myself. But I keep searching the blog for words like "Collins" and "Smyrna" and "Brooks" and finding nothing. Anyway, it's here now! Sometime I'll add a scan of the earliest deed to our farm, all hand-written in copperplate. And some other time I'll post about the Oneidas who lived in the area before any white settlers got there.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Jamie's first day of school

Wow, am I behind in blog posts or what? I haven't posted anything yet about our Brigantine vacation, or about finally selling Newton, or several other significant summer events -- but I can't miss this landmark occasion.  Here's Margot walking Jamie to the bus for his first day of kindergarten.

This reminded Dad of another picture, taken so long ago that it's faded from spending too much time in a frame. That time it was Luke, escorting Caleb and Laura to the bus stop on Laura's first day of kindergarten. Right after the picture was taken, he burst into tears because he was afraid that when the bus arrived, he'd have to get on in his bare feet.

Yes, it's a cliche to ask where the time goes. But where does the time go?