The Diary of Miss Alvina Helmer

Written at Kast Bridge - March 1915

My Recollections of Eatonville as it Was in 1850

The residence of Leonard Eaton was located near, and on the north of where the Eatonville Cheese Factory now stands, but was not established until many years later, with Irving Eaton as salesman and secretary too, I think, which office I believe he still retains, although residing in Little Falls. His wife's maiden name was ____ Keyser and I think has one daughter.

Leonard Eaton was twice married. His first wife left one son whose name was Addison and he married Gertrude Wilmarth, a cousin of his half brother whose name was Arnold, his second wife having been Susan Arnold, a sister of Parley, Bailey, Nathan, and Silas Arnold who resided in Fairfield north of Eaton Bush. Arnold married Catherine Weatherwax. He passed away in 189_, survived by his wife and three children. Elmer, the oldest son, followed a few years later, also the daughter, Mrs. Fitch. Mrs. Eaton rents her farm and resides in Little Falls. Over the brook or creek her father, Benjamin Weatherwax, Sr., resided for many years, and had quite a good sized family, eight children, I believe. At the time of our residence in Eatonville, three of the family had married and resided in homes of their own. James lived on Little Falls road and died very suddenly, while attending to duties on the farm, of heart failure. The first wife of Dr. George Graves was his daughter. Andrew also married and I think at that time lived on a farm in Shells Bush. Incidentally, as I was thinking of writing of this family this morning, I glanced over the first page of the Herkimer Democrat of March 22, 1916. In an address by Dr. Chas. Wheelock of Albany in Newville, I caught the name of Weatherwax, and he stated that Andrew Weatherwax was still living in Newville at the advanced age of 85 years. Mary Ann, the eldest daughter, married Anson Fenner and lived on a farm a little distance above Eatonville and died at the Fenner homestead in _____, aged about 80, if I remember rightly. Margaret was a young lady at that time and was twice married. Her first husband was ____ , her second husband being Gorden Burrill. Benjamin Jr. was then a young man and later entered the ministry. I think his wife's maiden name was _____. Charley was older than Kate whom I had mentioned as the wife of Arnold Eaton. Charley was a lad in his teens and still attending school and having an unusually fine voice, generally led the singing. He died while still a young man with tuberculosis. Cornelia, the youngest of the family, was a student at Fairfield Seminary in the winter of 1865, it being the last term I spent at that institution and the last term of my school days. Later she became Mrs. Goodale, but became a widow by the death of her husband by drowning and she married again. A son, William Goodale, married Maude, a daughter of Thomas Petrie, and resides here in Herkimer, being a contractor, or carpenter and builder.

As we approach nearer Eatonville on the same side of the road stands a large two story farm residence, shaded by several ancient, stately elms, facing the Little Falls road which in 1850 was occupied by Sidney Ward and family who were all living at that time. Sidney Ward's wife's maiden name was Nancy Priest, and I think she was a sister of Elijah Priest, the railroad man, he having been previous to that time a resident of that vicinity. William, the oldest son, was spoken of as a very industrious young man, assisting his father with the work on the farm. He was then unmarried but somewhat later in life married Harriet Van Buren, who claimed to be a relative of Martin Van Buren. Charlotte, the eldest daughter, married Thaddeus Getman of Dennison Corners. They had one daughter, Mary Getman, who was the wife of Clark Smith, the victim of the tragedy at Middleville, enacted by Dr. Richter. Maryette married a man by the name of Miller and they resided in Buffalo where her youngest sister, Fanny Pernelia, married and resided also. Sidney Ward was born in 1807, died in 1884. Nancy Priest, his wife, was born in 1806, died in 1871. William was born in 1833 and died in 1907. Burr W. in 1837, died in 1898. Eliza Ward's birth is given in 1848 but I do not think that is correct as I know she was older than I, died in 1907. The above dates were copied from the tombstones in Eatonville Cemetery, October 1915. I have heard the home of Sidney Ward spoken of as once having been a "tavern", one of the earliest built and presumably run by Bela Ward, who died in Middleville. I know there was a large ballroom in the upper story which was often a scene of great merrimnent. He had a large family of sons and daughters.

Not far from the Ward residence was the home of "old Moses Hall" and "Aunt Lucy" as the neighbors called his wife and Jared Hall, a grandson who attended our district school, whose parents, I think, were dead. Some time later Moses, who I think was a brother of Erastus and Esquire John Hall, sold his property in Eaton's Bush and purchased a house on Washington Street in Herkimer where they spent their last days, the boy Jared having been drowned soon after they resided in Herkimer. Their home then fell into the hands of Mrs. Catherine Benchley, a neighbor who had been very kind to them and cared for them during their last sickness and death. It is now the home of Mrs. Mary Barnes and her brother, Henry Benchley.

In close proximity to the Moses Hall house in Eatonville were the homes of Charles Daniels and Luther Sheldon, the latter a shoemaker, the former the father of Joe Daniels of Middleville and Francis Daniels, a lad in his teens and an attendant of the district school. The father, I believe, was a carpenter. I do not recall any other resident between there and the old Church which was located on one of the loveliest and most picturesque spots in Eatonville which always seemed to be kept very neatly without a weed or shrub to mar the beautiful rural simplicity of the green surrounding the Church. I wish to keep the name of Arthur Dudley Ward in remembrance in connection with this church for I do not know of any one beside him who took the interest in its care and repair that he did as long as his health permitted, also of the cemetery in which he was laid to rest. Later his remains were transferred to the cemetery in Little Falls. I wish I might be able to give the correct history of this church and of the people who worshipped there, but my knowledge at this late date is very limited. I frequently heard that it was a Baptist church in its early history, but later being used by all denominations, was called a Union Church. But I do know there were some very scholarly and impressive sermons delivered in that same old church. One of the finest and most impressive sermons I ever listened to was given in there by Rev. Dolphus I. Skinner of Utica at the burial of Fred Ford, son of Albert Ford, who gave his life to his country and whose remains were brought home for burial in Eaton Bush Cemetery. The church was so crowded that all could not get in and late arrivals drove to the open windows and sat in their conveyances there to hear the sermon, and again at the funeral of ____ Cameron, another victim of the Civil War, and although in bad weather, the crowd was nearly as great.

I will now copy a bit from my diary dated Oct. 26, 1915. I was visiting my brother L.B. Helmer who stills resides in the old dwelling of Esq. John Hall near Eaton's Bush and where he has resided ever since his marriage, having purchased the farm early in 1867, his marriage having taken place on Nov. 14, 1866. I had long desired to visit the old cemetery at Eatonville and at that date I had that privilege. The weather being fine, my brother's wife asked if I wouldn't like to go that afternoon, Oct. 25, saying that she and Maud (her son's wife) would go with me and show me the town. Of course I was ready to visit the old place that I had not seen in many years and as I wanted to make the most of my opportunity, thought I would go a little farther and take one more look at the old Baptist and Union Church which pleased me in my childhood. I crossed the brook, but it was nowhere to be seen. It had been removed from the green and taken across the road and converted into a barn and doesn't bear the least resemblance to the church I once knew and admired for its antiquity. Even the spire and all else that looked a bit like a church had been removed and taken across the road. Neither is there anything from where I viewed the place at the corner to remind me of "Eaton's Bush" as it was in 1850.

There is but one family living there at present who are descendants of any of the old time inhabitants, but I was pleased to note the tidy appearance of our old residence which was once the home of Garret Huyck, it being newly painted white with a nice porch in front, and is now occupied by the owner, Charley O'Hara. This old dwelling, previous to my residence in Eaton Bush, was owned by Mason Van Slyke, in which he had a grocery and also had dry goods there for sale and as it was a very large two story building, I presume was also occupied by his family, there being some large spacious rooms there. Garret Huyck, being a carpenter, used the western portion as a shop. In the year of 1850 Seth Keeler took up his residence there, having left the house into which my father entered to go there and, he being a tinsmith, had a shop in the portion afterwards used as a carpenter shop by Garret Huyck while his family, which consisted of a wife and two daughters, Jane and Mary, and when the place was sold, returned to Frankfort where he had formerly resided. I think Mr. Keeler was a brother of old Daniel Eastman's wife who died, I think, in 1864. The house, once inhabited by Mr. Huyck, shows the least change of any but is unoccupied. His son and only child, Hiram Huyck, died at the home of his daughter, Jessie Callister, who married ______ for second husband, July 10, 1914, aged 73 years. His wife who died many years ago was Melissa Harter, daughter of John and Polly Harter. He had several children, George, William, and Orville, and another daughter Eliza who married and went to live in Jefferson Co. The father of Hiram (George) had a grocery and dry goods store very near his residence, also a shoeshop in connection with a shed used by his customers. He made and repaired boots and shoes, as did his son, and at one time the Post Office was located there and attended by his wife, Susan, who died in 1892. She was born in 1819. George was born in 1819 and died in 1898.

Next above the home of George Huyck on same side of the road leading to Fairfield was a large two story residence, the home of the Wilcox "girls" as they were invariably called, who must have lived there some time, they having owned the property. There were three sisters, and Caroline, the eldest of the trio, was a tailoress and made men's clothes. She made a "swallow tail" coat for my father in 1850, which I still have in my possession in good condition. Thirza was the second sister and Abbie, the youngest. There was another sister also, Mrs. William Ford of Fairfield, mother of James Wellington Ford who died ____. There were also two brothers, Benjamin and Harry, who then resided in Little Falls. After the death of Caroline, the younger sisters resided with them. This residence was a large roomy two story house and previous to its purchase by the Wilcox girls, had been the property of Dr. Johnson, a popular young physician whose wife was an artist who had painted various landscapes of great beauty on the inner walls of the parlors. My mother frequently saw and admired them and said they were fine, and it seems a great pity that such a residence and home of refinement should have been converted into a workshop. I do not know who was the owner when young Daniel Eastman bought it and removed it to his own premises and converted it into a machine shop.

There was another physician that had resided in Eatonville and was employed by my father when my oldest brother and some others of the children had the scarlet fever. I was an infant then but had it when the older ones had it and our doctor was Dr. Daniel Belknap, who lived in Eaton Bush a number of years and later removed to Little Falls. His first wife was Julana Brayton of Fairfield, survived by one daughter Helen who married a man from the South where she had been teaching. His second wife was a daughter of Gen. Story at Little Falls. There were two daughters, Julia and Mary, and a son Benjamin who after the death of his father, was taken home by Walter Ward. I will now quote again from my diary of Oct. 1915, when I last visited Eatonville, "But the most desolate place of all was on the corner where we had resided one short year. Not a vestige of the house, woodhouse, or barn was left, nor were the trees of that once famous orchard of delicious fruit, except a few old veterans that looked as if their days for producing fruit had long since passed away, nor could I see anything even to remind me of the old well which stood conveniently near the board walk. If the spirit of Dr. Willard should ever return to Eaton Bush, it certainly would get lost trying to find the old house he once inhabited, and across the road on the opposite corner was no trace of the large two story dwelling which was once owned by "old" Nathan Hale, and in 1850 had sheltered three families, that of his two sons, William and Amos, both being married with families, and himself and wife who resided in the North wing living by themselves. Nathan Hale, the grandfather, was born March 17, 1774 and died May 20, 1861, aged 87 years, 2 mo. Ruth his wife was born Jan. 10, 1779, died Dec. 23, 1861, aged 82 years, 11 mo., 13 days. William, the eldest son, who married Caroline Hilts of Shells Bush, a daughter of John G. Hilts. As I remember William Hale's children as follows, Salina, James, Jane, Caroline, John, Thomas, Ruth, and Nellie. Amos had two sons, whose names I have forgotten. When he and William sold out to my brothers, George M. and Luther B. Helmer, Amos went to a western state, while William located somewhere in Cayuga Co. The farm adjoining on same side of the road north of this land, had previously been owned by Nathan Hale's brother Richard Hale, but was owned at the time of our residence in Eatonville by Daniel H. Eastman who died there in ____, soon followed by his wife. This house was also a large commodious dwelling as were the majority of dwellings at that time and this property fell into the hands of their only child, Benjamin, who later married Miss Euphania Barnhart, a cousin who had lived there some years.

Notes found on loose papers placed in this notebook:

Death of Mrs. Catherine Haynes Benchley occured Jan. 28, 1911. Was born March 29, 1817, lacking 2 months of being 94 yrs. of age.

Conrad Helmer died Oct. 26, 1841 aged 76 years, 28 months, 29 days. Frederick J. Helmer died May 5, 1801, age 78 years, 6 mo. & 19 days.

Conrad M. Folts died Aug. 28, 1853, aged 70 years & 20 days. Susannah wife of Conrd Folts died Nov. 28, 1870 aged 88 years and 22 days. Meilchert Folts born May 5, 1716 died May 24, 1829, age 82 years, 11 mo., 28 days.

Leodwick Barse born Dec. 25, 1747 died June 17, 1832, aged 85 years, 5 mo., 22 days.

The End.

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