REMINISCING WITH DONALD SMITH
ONE OF THE OLDEST INHABITANTS WHO GREW UP IN THE TOWN OF HERKIMER
By Betsy Voorhees
Reminiscing about Middleville Road (Route 28) from Kast Bridge north in the Town of Herkimer.
On July 10, 2000 I talked to Donald Smith who now lives on Route 28N just past the Ace of Diamond Mines in Middleville. He said he was happy to provide information to be used on this web site if it could be of help to others. Together we came up with the following brief history of the areas he lived in.
He reminisced about his Smith family owning the farm on Route 28 in the Town of Herkimer about 1/3 mile south of the Country Manor (Country Manor was formerly called Herkimer County Home for the Aged). Mr. Smith stated the farm was part of the Simon Farmer lands many years ago. One of the Farmer family members had married a Smith and they worked together on the land. As time went on, the sole owner was Frank Smith who operated the farm until Earl Smith, Donald's father took over. For a while Donald owned this farm before moving to Middleville. The Smith homestead, containing many antiques, was burned down by an arsonist a few years ago. Presently, Donald's son lives in a home he built on this property located in the Town of Herkimer making him the fourth generation of his family to occupy this property. An antique business is run using the farm buildings for storage.
Mr. Smith said the two little homes across from the County Home Cemetery were owned by Donald Brown and his wife Mildred. One of the homes formerly was owned by Miss Leta Rands (1896-1993) who was a nurse. Leta passed away in Boonville. Before moving to Boonville she had willed one of these homes to Donald and Mildred Brown, for the loving care afforded her when she broke her hip and was ill. Miss Rands came to Herkimer from New Jersey. Donald Brown retired from the Standard Furniture Company where he was employed in the stock department for many years. After Donald passed away his wife lived alone in her cozy little home situated just before the Country Manor, overlooking West Canada Creek. They had no children. Mrs. Brown took driving lessons and obtained her license when she was about 70 years of age. Mrs. Brown had remarked that living in the country was a hardship after her first husband passed away as her only means to town was asking neighbors for a ride or hiring a taxi, thus she was determined to get a license to drive. It was around 1990 she married Egbert Bowman and moved to his home on Esther Street in Herkimer. They were both older when they married; Mr. Bowman being around 90 years of age and she about 78. Mr. Bowman operated a greenhouse from his home for many years and was a well known gardener in the Herkimer area. It was through his knowledge of plants and gardening that led to the acquaintance of widow Brown and widower Bowman. When Mr. Bowman passed away in mid-1990's Mildred continued to live alone in the Bowman house. She passed away in the spring of 1999.
Mr. Smith also stated that years ago, by the Feldbrugge residence on Route 28, a bridge was being planned to cross the West Canada Creek which would have connected on the other side to what is now known as Lynch Road. Mr. Smith said he remembers the finished abutments on the Route 28 side of the creek-bed and that the builder said, "The Lord is going to put the bridge across the West Canada Creek." This never happened and portions of what was supposed to be the groundwork for the bridge can still be seen in that particular area where Stoney Creek empties into West Canada Creek.
Donald Smith also said Mr. McKerrow who lived across West Canada Creek on the Fairfield side, being the kind person Mr. McKerrow was, "would give me a dime every time he saw me. Of course, I was always happy to see him."
There had been, up until the last year, three families named Smith living next to each other or across the street from each other on Route 28. None of these families were related to each other in any way. One family moved from Herkimer to another town in 1999. I mention this now so any researchers of the Smith name will know they haven't found three connecting families in the same area.
Donald Smith mentioned he helped in the building of the old bridge over the West Canada Creek on the West German Street Extension in Herkimer, which road was in back of Heidelberg Bakery and Marriott Chevrolet (now known as Steet Ponte Chevrolet.) He remarked that at that time it was the longest bridge going over West Canada Creek. In 1989 a concrete and steel beam bridge replaced the old structure which had been condemned for several years. This bridge is now named in honor of Donald Mitchell, former State Assemblyman. This is the bridge on Shells Bush Road a short distance north on the right hand side of Route 28 coming from Herkimer.
Donald said he had two uncles who were lawyers who resided in Herkimer. Their names were Jake and Earl Smith but he couldn't recall exactly where their homes were. He also stated he was related to the Kast family at Kast Bridge for whom this bridge and area was named.
We also discussed at this time how Eastern Rock would provide crushed stones for the road sides when the shoulders were retarred in the spring. How the diamonds (quartz crystals) would sparkle in the sunlight! This spectacular sight ended when the old quarry closed 15-20 years ago.
Mr. Smith also remarked about the apple distillery operated by the Farmer family many years ago in this area with the apples obtained from the orchards off their lands which land extended as far down as the Sulphur Springs Road (now called Osborne Hill Road after being renamed in 1996.) He remembered a teacher named Mr. VanVechten who taught at the Myers one room school house at the top of Osborne Hill Road. He mentioned the old church in this same area, which I found to be a Methodist Episcopal Church. Their congregation continually dwindled until closing as the people in the community found means of transportation to the village and other churches.
Another memoire was hearing the tooting of the train in the distance as it headed up the tracks which were parallel to West Canada Creek.
Of course, the old "Dugout" near Kast Bridge was mentioned near the old Dempster Bridge. The dugout being the road which was made by digging portions of the hillside out and levelling the area for construction of the road at the bottom of the hills. However, due to many mud, snow and ice slides, the road would become blocked. When the Route 28 highway was reconstructed in 1966 the old Dempster Bridge was taken down, West Canada Creek re-routed to the other side of the highway, and the dugout eliminated. Today there is just a slight hint of where the old dugout road once was.
Donald Smith is one of the older inhabitants in this area and has a very vivid memory and is quite active. It is through people like Mr. Smith I hope to find more history of the town of Herkimer.
Copyright © 2000 Betey Voorhees
All Rights Reserved.