I REMEMBER by Cornella Smith Seabury
TO THE MEMORY OF LINNA DAKE
Daughter of Melvena Lyman & Starks DeSevigne Dake whose interest first gave me the idea
And to Dake descendants especially my grandchildren who may from them acquire a glimpse of the mores of
their ancestors, these memories are dedicated.
By Cornella Smith Seabury
with additions by her sister, Jennie Emmalissa Smith Rowell
daughters of Charles Edwin and Sarepta A. Dake Smith and granddaughters of
John Hiram and Emmalissa Gorton Smith
Benjamin C. and Mary Jane Carman Dake
I REMEMBER by Cornella Smith Seabury
A little knowledge of the surroundings furnishes a background for my story.
The Dake Homestead, like so many of its day, was situated up a lane from the road. The lane entered, from the southeast corner, a large open rectangle, upon the north side of which were the front yard -- where the old well and crabapple tree still are -- and the side yard.
On the west side of the rectangle, which contained a horse block and hitching post, were the barn yard gate and the carriage house. This building was large enough to house the Democrat wagon, carriage, sleighs, and many farm implements, and also a bricked in iron "arch kettle" where the water was heated for the butchering, so that this work could be finished inside where there was protection from the cold.
West of the side yard was the barn yard, mostly enclosed on the north by the "Eli" which had been the old house, moved there when the later one was built, and on the west by the 100 foot barn, with some open basement underneath. The south side was the only one wholly unprotected, and all open spaces had a high vertical board fence.
The main part of the house, facing south (Marion2 has the only existing picture of it), was colonial in type (with no piazza on the main part when it was first built), with five small-paned windows upstairs, four downstairs, and a central door framed on each side by long narrow panes. It was painted white, with green blinds. There was a wing to the west, and beyond that, a large woodshed. Facing the sunny south were, in the east corner the parlor, the front hail in the middle and in the southwest corner the winter kitchen, used in summer on state occasions as a dining room. This winter kitchen opened on a side porch situated in the angle formed by the main part and wing.
On each end of the main house was a chimney, the one on the east receiving a labyrinth of stove pipes from the two east chambers, the parlor and the nursery room, while into the west one went the chimney from the double fireplace (between the summer and winter kitchens), the winter and summer kitchen stove pipes, and the little pipe from the west front chamber, or girlsí room. The west back chamber, the boysí room, was unheated, except as a crook of the pipe from the front one, passed into it, and directly made a turn into the chimney. Perhaps the boys and hired men who occupied the three beds in the room, tempered it slightly, but their homespun shirts, worn day and night, and the homespun wool blankets, must have been life savers.
In the wing were the summer kitchen, a stairway to the attic, and the "back buttery" on the north. The summer kitchen had a door to the south opening on the side piazza, and one to the west opening into the woodshed.
In Grandfatherís3 day the wood shed was always piled to the attic floor (there was an attic even over that, where butternuts were stored), in the fall, with good hard wood cut and split to proper sizes for the kitchen, and for the "chunk" stoves which warmed the house. There was a fireplace and brick oven between the summer and winter kitchens, but it was never used in my day except to "bile sap" in the spring. Then the summer kitchen side was lighted.
Perhaps a little description of the interior of the whole house might give a picture, not only of that, but of the period. Downstairs, let me begin with everyday details, and move gradually to that Holy of Holies, the Parlor.
I have mentioned the shed piled full of wood, the only fuel for the entire house, winter or summer. The "back buttery" behind the summer kitchen in the wing, was largely a store room for the various supplies bought in quantity, or produced on the place, and for the eggs which were accumulating ready for a trip to Frank Hewittís grocery, in Saratoga.
In the front of the main part was the winter kitchen, with its rag carpet and cook stove, its dining table between the front windows, and on the north side another table, for an Unabridged Dictionary and the current copies of The Tribune and The Christian Advocate. In winter, a sink stood in front of the unused fireplace. This was not connected with outdoors, all water being carried in and out by the pail full. Also, above the hail, cellar and nursery doors, was a shelf where the pans of milk were set in winter when both "butteries" were too cold. The placing and removing of these pans was somewhat of an acrobatic feat. Under the shelf was a picture of Mercy at the Wicket Gate, and a clock which told the hour, second, month, day of the month, and day of the week.
Descending the cellar stairs, one first entered the vegetable and general storage cellar. Back of this was the apple cellar, for in good years, the farm orchard produced as many as 200 barrels of apples. In the east end was the milk cellar, with its shelves for milk pans, and cheeses, its cheese press, and its space for storage of jars of butter covered with cool wet cloths ó they also awaiting transit to Hewittís.
Returning to this winter kitchen, one would discover the "winter buttery" at the back, one side being devoted to milk, the other displaying Grandmotherís4 dishes, including the cherished willow ware.
Next, Granchnotherís4 bedroom was furnished with a bed, chair, and tall desk, and at the foot of the bed a strip of wood, with nails driven into it, making a place to hang clothing.
Again at the back, next east, was the nursery room, where Grandmother kept the "littler" children secure from draughts. This room boasted a bed, stove, and an immense mahogany claw foot sideboard which must have been an heirloom. However, it had then forgotten the days of old, and become a linen storage and miscellaneous cupboards below, while, instead of decanters and glasses, Uncle Winslow's books and Aunt Maryís copies of Little Women, Little Men and Old Fashioned Girl, decorously adorned the top.
Adjoining this was the parlor bedroom, sacred to the higher type of guests. Its floor boasted a hand woven yarn - not rag - carpet, its window a lace curtain, gorgeous even if past its prime, its bed a Marseilles spread, instead of the patch work quilts covering beds in other rooms.
But if this was awe inspiring, words fail me to describe the parlor, in front! The blinds, always closed, lest the south sun fade the red and green ingrain carpet, or rot the lace curtains tacked to the inside of gilded wooden frames, gave a semi-twilight to the room. Between the front windows stood a white marble topped table, the Family Bible on it, and against the westside was the mahogany and haircloth sofa, with matching chairs and rocker, at suitable intervals. Under the sofa in winter, adding to the attractions, if not the attractiveness, of the parlor, was the dried apple fruitcake, which Grandma made in the fall, and kept covered with a milk pan. For some reason, as the boys grew older, when the cake was examined from time to time, the triangle, which had been cut out, seemed larger and more obtuse! Then there were the lovely crayon pictures in their heavy gilt frames, testifying to my motherís devotion to her art course at Jonesville. I recall three: a blonde, curly haired child, her equally beautiful brother, and a ringletted maiden in a transparent white dress. Perhaps the pure white velvety-looking paper, with its dainty gilt and black medallion flower baskets carrying the eye up to the high ceiling, was a crowning glory, or at least a suitable background for all this grandeur.
Upstairs, besides the large chambers called the girlsí and the boysí rooms, were two large guest rooms, all the upstairs rooms having rag carpets, of rags sewed by Grandma and the girls, and woven by the Wilsey family. These rooms were heated by little fluted wood stoves, with doors that opened in front, to let one read her future in the flames. The four poster beds were piled high with feather beds, down comforts, carpet coverlets of homespun wool and quilts carefully stitched in patterns, all the orthodox patterns, and some original with Grandma, copied from wall papers. Around the bed frames were curtains reaching to the floor, called valences, underneath which "band boxes" were stored, to supplement, in the guestrooms, the lack of clothespresses. The central windows, front and back, lighted the "boy's clothes room" and the "girls clothes room" respectively. Each bedroom, besides its beds, had a washstand, with the necessary pre-plumbing equipment.
The central hall upstairs had a bed in it at times, still leaving plenty of floor space. There were ten beds in the rooms on the second floor, for besides the large family of their own, Grandfather and Grandmother always had a boy or two living with them, working summers and attending school winters until he was eighteen, when he would be dismissed with $100.00 and a new suit of clothes. Most of these boys, trained in Grandfatherís ways, went out to become good substantial farmers and citizens. They retained kindly thoughts of their foster home, and often returned on visits. A half dozen people extra, just before meal time, didnít embarrass the housekeeper as it would now a days! Then Grandmother adopted little Adaline, to bridge the gap of four boys between Sarepta and Mary. She married happily from their home, and yearly returned with her ever-increasing brood of little Lewthwaiteís, for a visit.
Each season some of Grandfatherís brothers and sisters, who still regarded "Ben Cís" as home, came, for one to six weeks visit. Later, after my mother attended Jonesville Academy, her school friends came; so often, especially summers, the big bedrooms and many beds were all occupied.
Comie has asked me to proof read and criticize her manuscript, and I find it all true to life, and having the atmosphere. Yet I might add a little more, perhaps call it "Pomp and Circumstance" something as to the size and plantation - like quality of the place. Except for sugar ( and they had the maple) and luxuries, it was hardly necessary to patronize a store
In the clothespress off the nursery hung the silk dresses of black and of gray and over Grandmaís meager little face quivered the finest ostrich plume in Saratoga County, draped around a black straw bonnet in summer, a velvet in winter. There was never a crimp or curl in her neatly parted gray hair, never a trace of cornstarch powder on her face, but she would look into the past and say, "I was the best looking one of Fatherís girls."
I was asked to make a prayer in public on one occasion, and begged off as unequal An old resident said reprovingly, "your grandmother could make a prayer equal to any ministerís". And yet she had had only five days of schooling ó and that a pioneerís!
As to Grandfather Dake, I have been told that he had the farm from his father, the "Old Peacemaker", run down and encumbered, and made it a paying place, supporting all that have been mentioned. Also, he "sent away to school" all of his eight children except Uncle Charles. Years ago, he paid the mortgage, saving the old Baptist Church in Jamesville, which, like many a person, has often been in a decline, and yet outlives us all. My mother has often spoken of her fatherís kindly patience in his old age.
But now I am quoting, and will close with the hope that we, as a family, live up to our "goodly heritage".
Jennie E. Rowell 3
Note: Other additions made by Aunt Jennie to my motherís preface, are incorporated in the descriptions of the parlor, and of the guest bedrooms.
Dorothy Seabury Langdon 4
1. The home of Benjamin C. and Mazy Jane Carman Dake
2. Marion, the daughter of [Aunt] Mary Jane Dake McConchic
3. Benjamin C. Dake
4. Mary Jane Carman Dake
5. Jennie Emmalissa Smith Rowell, sister of the storyteller, Cornella Smith Seabury
6. Dorothy Seabury Langdon, the daughter of Cornella Smith Seabury
"I remember, I remember the house where I was born", but not "The little window where the sun came peeping in at morn", for the window was a big one, yes, two of them, and the "Nursery Room" faced north. There Charlie, Jennie and I first saw the light of day, and were efficiently cared for by our capable Grandmother Dake.
Many are the times Aunt Mary has told me of Mattie Carman (with whom she had been privileged to spend the night) and her racing home as fast as their eight-year-old legs could carry them, to see the new baby, a black-haired, black-eyed little object.
The ties between Aunt Mary and me were much stronger then the difference in our ages warranted. Perhaps it was partly the lack of other companionship on her part, for Mattie Carman and Emma Wilsey each lived a mile away, besides which "Emmer" belonged to a family of whom my Grandmother remarked in tones of disgusted disapproval. "The Wilsey wimen say ĎGosh". To this day I never use the word without a tiny pin prick of conscience, plus a feeling of doing something "low down"; so hear ye, all who believe in early training. After all, though, it may be just as well Grandmother is not around to hear the things her granddaughters say in moments of stress! Or is she? Sometimes I feel her presence.
Anyway, Aunt Mary and I built and shared the playhouse halfway down the lane leading to the main road, under a tree whose seed pods provided our knives of a lilliputian type. The playhouse had walls, partitions and furniture of stones, the piano, I recall, being of the "Grand" style - a somewhat triangular flat stone mounted on three smaller ones, while the stool was a round, flat rock.
The one exception to the stone furniture was the dish cupboard, which was skillfully constructed of a brick laid flat on each end, a shingle, two more bricks, a single, etc., till our stock of china was duly displayed to advantage. None of your toy store stuff was this china. We repaired to the spot where Grandmother with lamentations laid her broken dishes down in what she thought to be their last rest. Then we dug out pieces which suited our fancy, most of the "stone Chiny" variety, but we never shared her grief if some awkward uncle or hired man made havoc of a flowered dish. Rather a gleam of pleasurable anticipation lighted our eyes, and anon a treasure added to our collection.
there was the effort of stocking the larder in preparation for possible guests. We learned that soil from different places on the farm "baked" differently, some being adapted to piecrust of the open top variety, while some made better "bread" or "cake", and some had to be used as "gravy" because of its pouring quality.
Vegetables and fruits were ours without the asking. Even at that age we had the housewifely instinct to outdo the "meal" Mat or Em had provided on the occasion of our last visit. I must admit that in case of company Grandmother supplemented our baking with fried cakes, possibly some of her homemade sage cheese --with its green mottled look as if in an advanced state of mould, but tasting like a gift of the Gods ó and milk.
Too much visiting was not encouraged, and we submitted meekly. "No. you were over to Mattieís last week, and I donít want you bothering Aunt Eunice." (Aunt Euniceís husband was Grandmotherís brother, Samuel Carman.)
In spite of her purely district school education, Mattie was for many years the highly successful principal of the South Street school in Baliston Spa.
But all this was much later.
My very first memory is of a drowsy early spring day, when the doors were still kept closed against the lingering chill from snow banks not yet surrendered to the warm sun. Beside the cook stove which also furnished the heat for the "winter kitchen" were three persons. Grandfather by the hearth was seated in his arm chair leaning forward over the cane upon which his clasped hands rested, the western sun making a halo of his white hair. Besides the open oven door sat Grandmother, arrayed in her second-best cap, sacred to afternoons, the click of her rapidly moving knitting needles the only sound to break the stillness. In a little rocker between the two was a small two-year-old girl, who was myself.
The warm weather had called the hens from their winter hibernation in a room of the "old House", then forming an "Ell" of the barn, and some of them had strayed into the side yard, through a gate left open upon the side porch. Suddenly, just outside the door, the somewhat nostalgic silence was rent by a most lusty and triumphant "Ohh - ook -a - hoo". Why do those trivial things remain fixed on oneís mind, while those so much more important, fade? It doesnít seem possible I can remember it, but Grandfather died the February after I was three, and this was the spring before.
The next recollection is of breakfast -- no, of a breakfast. Around the long table were seated my aunt and uncles, while by the stove stood my Grandmother baking her good raised buckwheat pancakes, the tears running down her cheeks and occasionally splashing on the hot stove. My three-year-old mind sensed something depressing in the atmosphere. No one was eating. Byron, Earl, Starks, Charles, and Mary were devoting themselves with unwonted assiduity to my wants in the matter of brown sugar moistened with a spoonful of thick cream as top dressing on the final pancake coming as a reward of merit after the sausage-and-gravy trimmed ones. Then, too, there was a strange silence around the table. During the night, the patriarchal old grandfather had gone to be with God whom for so many years he had served according to the light given him and the Baptist guidance which was his hereditary faith.
While he was a kind husband to Asenath and Grandmother, there is not doubt his heart was always with the beautiful young bride of his youth, Sarepta, whom he mourned for ten years before marrying her younger sister, Asenath.
It seems the same day (but I know it wasnít) when my father came out of the parlor to take me by the hand, and Charlie in his arms, and lead us back into the midst of a black robed, black veiled, weeping group gathered around a long black box. He raised me up to look wonderingly inside, and there was Grandfather asleep in his Sunday clothes. Father, who had a good deal of hidden sentiment in his nature, no doubt thought the occasion would impress itself upon our minds, and it is one of the memories I shall always carry.
Then he took us back to the winter kitchen where Emma Wilsey and Mattie Carman took charge of us, holding us up to the windows to see the procession move down the snowbank bordered path to the lane, where the sleighs were lined up, and then slowly out of sight to the "Ville" Baptist Church, where friends and neighbors were gathered to pay a last tribute of respect to a good neighbor and citizen, while the sweet-toned Baptist bell tolled off the years of his life.
Grandmother outlived Grandfather many years, as she was much younger, but both rest on the little knoll which is the old Middle Grove Cemetery, while Sarepta and Asenath returned to the last home of the Woods, beyond Greenfleld Center, where their century-old graves may still be seen, with these inscriptions:
In memory of
wife of Benjamin C. Deacke*
and daughter of Daniel and Mary Wood
who died in the 23rd year of her age
In memory of
wife of Benj. C. Dake*
*formerly spelled Deake.
Warren Wood Dake and Winslow J. Dake were sons of Grandfather and Asenath, while our Grandmotherís children were: Sarepta I, Sarepta II, Charles, Starks (named for a Presiding Elder of that name, for Grandmother was a Methodist) Earl, Byron, and Maiy. A visitor, come to see the new baby Starks in Grandmotherís absence, asked "What is his name?" Little Sarepta responded "Starks Presiding Elder".
Tell it not in Oath, publish it not in Askelon, but I surmise Grandmother felt as the wife who bore him three daughters and four sons, hers was the place beside him in their last sleep, and made arrangements accordingly.
From the side piazza of the homestead one looked over meadow and farm land across the Kayaderosseras Creek to the bluff overhanging it, about a half mile away, where was and is the Dake family burial ground. There, gleaming whitely against their green background, were the stones erected in memory of Charles Dake, Sr. and his wife Anna Gould, of Revolutionary days. Charles Dake Jr. and his wife Abigail Sherman, and one stone written full with the account of the great tragedy of their lives, the death by drowning of their son Warren. This happened in 1833, on the day he was to have been graduated from Union College, much more a theological seminary then that the scientific institution it has since become, and undoubtedly to have entered the Baptist ministry, for he was to have delivered, the Hebrew oration.
Percy is the custodian of his diploma, and of a letter describing the tragedy. Howard Tozer gave it to me when Charles Gardner died, and I felt both the diploma and letter should be kept in the Dake family and in the locality where Dakes could have access to both.
In the family cemetery, too, were included Elder Rowland Day, his wife and his daughter, the tie in this case being that of Baptist brotherhood -- for the original Dakes were loyal Baptists. Many ministers of that denomination were included among their number, either by birth or marriage.
Some say the Dake family burying ground was so located that it could be watched, or afford a watch tower against lurking Indians, but I like better to think that the Dake mothers of the babies who so often died untimely in those days wanted their children laid where they could still keep watch over them in their last sleep. Little Sarepta, Grandmotherís first child, named for Grandpaís first wife, Sarepta Wood Dake, is there. She died when ten months old, and when my mother was born, the following December, Grandmother said, "I wouldnít name her anything but Sarepta."
The two Sareptas did not at all resemble one another. The first was a fair, blond, blue eyed baby, like the original Dake stock, while my mother had from the first, the jet black hair and eyes that we remember inherited from her mother.
Often in summer (after someone in the neighborhood had killed a calf, the contents of its stomach constituting rennet!!!l) there was a morning when the "nightís milk" was set in pans on the stove, carefully heated to blood heat, then some rennet added and stirred. Almost immediately it formed a sweet curd which Grandmother marked off into checks or squares, to facilitate even heating. Then more watching till the curds were cooked just right and poured into the "cheese basket", a flat, loosely woven basket perhaps three feet square (There is still one at Nellieís) lined with a square of loosely woven cloth -- hence the name "cheese cloth" and supported on slats above the tub which on Mondays did double duty as a wash tub. The morning milk went through the same process, except that the temperature, as the men brought in the foaming pails, was just right for the rennet.
We stood around listening to the sound of the yellowish whey dripping into the tub, while the curds shrank and grew firmer, till Grandmother gathered up the corners of the cheese cloth and wrung the mass, to squeeze out all the whey she could. Then I followed, as she took it to the cheese press in the cellar, where, confined in a wooden cheese hoop of the proper size, the pressing process went on overnight.
In the morning the cheese was encased in a cheese cloth band around the circular edge. This was brought up over each ofthe flat sides, which had previously been covered with greased paper, and sewed flat, pleats being laid to keep the cloth tight. Then began the process of turning daily, for six weeks, while the row of cheeses which had been made, "ripened", ó also the process of arguing against "the boys" conviction that they were ripe enough to cut. Unlike those we see in the stores now, Grandmotherís were about four or five inches thick.
Sometimes the cheese manufacture was varied by making a sage cheese. On these mornings Grandmother and I repaired to the dewey [sic] garden to gather the fresh sage leaves, and (now it can be told, since after all these years there is no danger of Sally Dakeís learning Grandmaís secret formula to heighten the color) the green corn blades whose juice added color. We pounded these in the old wooden mortar till the juices were extracted. Then it was added to part of the pans of curd, to give the sage taste and green mottled color to the cheese.
Cheese making was all right as a diversion, but there was in it none of the high adventure of the goose picking.
As weather became warm in the spring, the geese, like the human branch of the species, began prematurely to shed their winter clothing. Noting the white feathers flecking the lawn, Grandmother knew "the time of plucking the geese is at "hand". So on a set morning she had the boys drive the protesting flock, headed by the hissing gander, into ó what think ye? -- the former parlor of the old house, then annexed to the barn. Hither she and I lied ourselves, Aunt Mary absenting herself from the rites with the plea "Who is going to get dinner?"
"That gander over there," is the first chosen victim, and she and I, as experienced cowboys should, "cut him out" from the rest and seized him in such manner that his violently flapping wings were pinioned to his sides, while his head, writhing around on its snake-like neck, with the obvious intention of avenging the insult to his freedom and dignity by exacting his pound of flesh from one of us, was promptly hooded with an old stocking. He could still pinch, ó and, believe you me, when I say a goose can bite, I mean bite!
These preparations made, Grandmother seated herself on a backless wooden chair, inverted the goose so the soft downy breast was uppermost, and with deft fingers began removing handfuls of feathers. The soft down went into the sack on her right, the coarser feathers into the one of the left.
For the most part, having been subdued, the gander submitted to fate with only an occasional squawk if grandmother in her economical zeal seized too large a handful, or over reached onto the wing or tail quills. Presently, bereft of all tail feathers, wing feathers and the soft short down which could produce the new coat, he was ready to be returned to the outer world. The feathers strip off easily, and apparently there is no pain except to goosly [sic] pride!
I said "the gander first". advisedly, for as long as he remained in duress he led occasional insurrections in which Grandmother and I suffered from the blows of flapped wings, and from bites. After being thrust out hastily through the slightly opened door, lest there be a prison break, he stood guard outside, voicing vehement protest against the detention of his harem, but ready to greet the next liberated goose with a most unhusbandly peck, wherever it might hurt worst. One could hardly blame him, but after all, he looked as bad as she did.
When the geese were picked, Grandmother and I removed the down, which filled hair, eyes, and clothes, and repaired to the house for the dinner Mary had elected to cook. He choice of duties was very satisfactory to me, for she always prepared some good sweet dessert. Even then she was a good cook.
You ask, "What became of the feathers?" The down made very soft, luxurious pillows and down comfortables, while the feathers made a less exclusive pillow, or feather beds -ó if this benighted generation knows what those are! The feathers were Grandmotherís perquisite, and after liberally stocking her own family, many were the pillows, etc., she sold at a good price, spending the proceeds for the sterling silver which was the pride of her heart, or giving a liberal portion to "The Domine".
Sheep shearing was interesting, but it lacked the excitement and sense of participation one derived from the cheese making and goose picking. It was a purely masculine task where one was only a spectator, but still there was a thrill about watching the sheep as they came dripping from their yearly bath in the Bishop Creek. Afterward their fleeces had to thy for a day to two; then they, likewise, were confined in the old house, and the shearers proceeded to clip, clip, while "the sheep before her sheerer was dumb", till the fleece rolled back bit by bit and came off like the matted garment it was. Then the ewes were returned to their waiting, bleating lambs, who refuse to acknowledge mother, minus her winter underwear, until driven by hunger to admit the relationship.
The colt breaking was another thing full of fearful shivers and forebodings, only these were vicarious.
Once on a Sunday morning, the boys harnessed for the first time, the "Morgan colt" to the buggy, while Aunt Mary and I looked on in pleased, terrified anticipation. He tore off down the lane at tenific speed, Uncle Earl pulling steadily and firmly on the lines (reins, to you), but negotiated the turn onto the road, while we hastened upstairs to look out the east room window and see if all reappeared safely in the direction of the Fisher Range, a little used highway where the boys planned to give him his tryout. Yes, he came into view, just "a fluny of dust in the distance", but after a few patient lessons he became a magnificent driving horse. The Morgan blood told.
I recall not "the fir tress dark and high", but the maples in the side yard, a row along the fence separating that from the front yard, or lawn. The distinction between the two yards was that semi-annually the front yard received its scythe out, while the straying chickens ate off what surplus grass grew under the maples in the side yard. Other maples scattered west of this row toward the barn yard, surrounded and shaded the "Bee House".
Never anywhere else have I seen or heard of a bee house, but Grandfather Dakeís farm certainly boasted one, with a door at each end to provide for hasty exits, a long shelf on each side about the height of a table, and on these shelves rows of conical woven hives such as we see in pictures. In front of the hives were long wide boards fastened on hinges, which let down to open for the busy honey season, and in winter were buttoned up to protect the bees from the cold, often subzero, Greenfield weather. It is strange we children were never stung. Probably Grandfatherís teeming buckwheat and clover fields kept the workers well fed and good natured! Possible, too, Grandmotherís admonitions as to too close an approach helped.
I know what the poet meant when he wrote of "the gay motes that dance along the sunbeam", for I saw them holding their dance in Grandmotherís "summer kitchen", of a warm afternoon when she and I sat there quietly, Mary not yet home from school. Never have they danced so merrily anywhere else, while behind them the white scrubbed, unpainted table waited for its covering of homespun brownish-white linen, and the good homemade bread and butter, cheese and milk, with the side dish of fresh applesauce from the early strawberry apples.
Salad wasnít even a word, in those days! And how tired harvest hands did eat of the supper which was always ready a fraction before their arrival! "Mary, you and Cornie hurry up and set the table, while I cut the bread. The men will be here any minit now."
A little girl, guileful beyond her years, approached Grandmotherís knee and suggested, "Grandma, make Mary study her jogfey lesson" and Grandmother in her quick, authoritative way said, "Yes, Mary, you go study you geography and stop bothering that child." Diplomacy finds ways, and the little brat knew instinctively that Grandmother, a woman of great natural ability, but little formal education, reverenced "book learning".
I remember, too, the same little girl cuddled on Aunt Maryís lap by the oven door, her feet warming for bed, listening - not to the Lone Ranger, nor Jack Benny, but to stories from the Bible, Little Women, Old Fashioned Girl, Uncle Tomís Cabin, or some family legend.
There is a family tradition that Charles Dake, Jr., realizing the need of his own children and those of the rural Daketown community, for an education, built the Daketown school on a corner of his farm and himself taught it winters. Many district schools in those days were established in this way, so it is quite probable.
This little schoolhouse was the scene of a terrific humiliation in my young days. My early homemade education had been decidedly "spotty". While I could read "Websterís Reply to Haynes" with the voice, if not the understanding, and do improper fractions (No., children, that doesnít mean naughty ones - just top heavy), the relationship of letters to sound didnít mean a thing. Knowing my reading prowess, and blissfully ignorant of the spelling deficiencies, Aunt Mary took me to school to show off her niece. She did! I took the count of the first word -- it would have been any of them leaving Willie Rose champion.
No wiser, but considerably humbler, we started home, she caustically saying, "Canít you spell? Are you going to let Willie Rose (contempt) beat you (deep scorn)? While I retired into a protective shell of assumed indifference. In those days the child, not the teacher, was held responsible.
There is also the time Aunt Mary and I were braving the perils of the barn yard, on our way back with the basket of eggs we had searched out of hidden nests in the hay. We never found all of them. Some sly biddy always outwitted us and came around, twice as big as life, clucking triumphantly over her newly hatched brood.
On this particular occasion I must have run on ahead (unless she purposely dropped behind), when suddenly at my heels a most tenif~íing hissing arouse, as the gander took after me, determination expressed in every flapping waddle to exterminate the young trespasser. As Aunt Mary gleefully described it "She didnít run! She flew up the gate and over," while he took a parting nip at my vanishing heels as they disappeared safely on the other side of the tight up-and-down board fence.
On the front lawn was a six-inch iron sphere which I was told was a Revolutionary cannon ball. Donít think one could "push it around". It was almost impossible to lift, probably the reason it was still there in my day.
The Dakes had originally settled in Walloomsac, or at White Creek, N.Y., north of Hoosac Falls, and west of Bennington, VT. They moved to Saratoga, then part of Albany County, in 1787. When word of General Baumís raid flashed through the scattered settlements, Great-great-grandfather Charles Dake, Sr., who was a minuteman, unhitched his horses from the plow (no Cincinnatus stuff for him, when this way was just as efficient), and drove them to the house. Hastily kissing his wife Anna, he gave her the little needed parting injunction, if one knew her character, "Do the best you can Anna", and went to join the gathering Colonial forces.
Looking over her supplies, Anna found her meal was low. The family shelled some corn, and balancing the bag over the back of a horse, the two older boys mounted and started for the mill at Walloomsac. The miller ground the corn, took out his own tithe in payment, and helped the boys start for home.
As they were returning, the running battle between Gen. Starks militia and Col. Baumís Hessians surged their way, many soldiers of each army crossing the road, firing as they ran. Sixteen year old William Gould Dake began to cry, realizing their own and their fatherís danger, but fourteen year old Charles entered into the excitement, waving this hat and cheering. This is not in agreement with his nature in later days, when for fifty years he was a justice of the peace in Greenfield, and was known as The OId Peacemaker. His influence exerted upon litigants nearly always brought them to a friendly settlement of their differences. My mother said he never tried a case, but that statement may be extreme.
The boys extricated themselves from the battling forces and went on home.
Anna took a horse and necessary supplies, and, leaving the younger children under the care of William and Charles, went to search for her husband, as word had come through neighbors that he had been wounded. She found him in a church in Bennington, which was being used as a temporary hospital. There was great lack of nursing, and the Hessian soldiers, who had also been carried there, begged her for some of the water she was giving her husband.
Like the noble woman she was, she gave them water, and, after attending to her husband, dressed their wounds and made them as comfortable as she could, then she helped Charles upon the horse behind her and returned home.
Annaís granddaughter, Aunt Sally Dake Gardner, is the authority for this account, which she received from her grandmother, and told to my mother, Sarepta Dake Smith, in later years. So the span of three lives connected the Revolution with the present time.
It is an established fact that the first of the battle was fought very near the Dake home, and may even have been partly on their farm, as it certainly was on that of their neighbor, Elder William Waite. His granddaughter Abigail Sherman later married Charles Dake, Jr. and became the mother of Susan, Olive, Sally, Benjamin, Charles, Cynthia, Warren and others. Susan married William Childs. Grandmother referred to him as Judge Childs, but I do not know whence the title derived. Their children were Increase and James. True to heredity, Increase Childs became a Baptist minister. His wife, Artemisia, whom Grandmother persist~nt1y called "Our-tu-misia", became afflicted with melanchlia, and was sure she had commited the "Unpardonable sin". What a commentary on the theology of the time, that her ministerial husband could not reassure her!
James settled in Wisconsin. When I was quite young, the brothers visited the Greenfield relatives. Reverend Increase, of course, received "the honor due his station", but toward the close of their visit, my mother and grandmother discovered with astonishment not unmixed with chagrin, that modest Brother James was a prominent member of the Wisconsin legislature.
As in most families, each generation had its tragedy. Uncle Winslow was a student at Troy University, afterward a Catholic school, when the Civil War broke out. Often has Grandmother told of the notice sent from the University of his enlistment in 1861. Grandfather went to Troy and brought back his belongings. Among them were several Latin books with his name, usually written W. J. Dake. Some of them were Tacitus, Anthon's Classical Dictionary, and a Latin-English Lexicon, all of which Dorothy used, and now has the Lexicon.
Then only about a month later was the day when Uncle Warren, Winslowís own brother, opened the Weekly Tribune and started to read aloud the list of killed at the battle of Wilsonís Creek, Missouri. Suddenly he stopped, then said, Winslow is killed." Winslow is buried where he fell, but each Memorial Day a flag in his memory is placed on Grandfatherís lot in the Middle Grove Cemetery.
Grandfather was too crushed to act, but Grandmother went to Samuel McKean, a noted preacher of the day, and asked him to preach a memorial sermon in the Baptist Church at Middle Grove where Winslow had always attended. It was the first funeral of a Civil War soldier in Saratoga County, the family was well known, and church and churchyard were filled to overflowing with a solemn company paying honor while the minister preached from the text in Esther, "If I perish, I perish."
When Uncle Starks went to Gasport and married Melvina Lyman, his schooldays sweetheart, Grandmother Dake held what in those days was called "the second day wedding", for the young people, upon their return to her home. To this reception friends and relatives were invited. They visited in a decorous manner enlivened only by Uncle Earlís bringing in an ear, or rather two, of corn ingeniously pegged together to appear like one, and asking Aunt Mellie if they raised any bigger ones than that in Iowa, a humbug which Uncle Starks promptly exposed. (Her people lived in Iowa, and she had been married at the home an an aunt, Mrs. Angevine.)
In preparation for this social function my mother had instructed me always to say "Pardon me", if it were necessary to pass in front of a person. It happened that she had occasion to send me out of the room on some errand. Anxious to air my newly acquired social grace, I circled around in front of Aunt Mellie, squeezing between her and the window to do so, and begged her pardon. It was given in her usual ladylike way, but for some reason there was a ripple of laughter through the parlor as my mother explained.
Occasionally on a pleasant afternoon Grandmother put on her sunbonnet of blue and white checked gingham, with pasteboard slats encased in its capacious front to hold it out and increase visibility, and its full cape enveloping her shoulders, took her cap basket in hand, the contents to be donned on arrival, and we hied ourselves to call on Alvah Dakeís folks. Our route followed the shady lane to its junction with the dusty wagon road, which I always wanted to scuff and was not allowed. Presently we came to the gate to Alvahís land. As the lane widened into the front lawn of Alvahís place,I was always intrigued by the sight of the "boiling" spring, several feet across and sunk into the lawn. On three sides it was walled up to lawn level, while on the fourth there was a slope leading down to it. All over the enclosed surface the cool, good tasting water bubbled up in spots through the white sand.
Grandmother used to say, "If you fall in there you will sink right down in." I never tried it, but there was a delightful thrill in surreptitiously leaning over and looking in. Tradition says this spring (still there) was well known to the Indians and was a favorite camping place.
We were cordially received and ushered into the parlor where Alvah sat in his arm chair, cane by his side. Sally was a Ďproud" woman, who used her parlor for other occasions than the ministerís visit, and wore a white cap afternoons, while Grandmotherís was the more utilitarian black lace. Also she refused to drink the coffee when Dr. Toustellott polished his egg and proceeded to boil it in the brewing beverage.
I was perched precariously on a straight-backed chair, a position I retained by hooking my toes over a front round, from the back, just the reverse of a birdís clutch on a branch, and was seen, not heard, while my elders discussed news, family, neighborhood, and church, though the Alvah Dakes were staunch Baptists, whereas Grandmother was as staunchly Methodist, which sometimes led to differences of opinion--to put it mildly.
Grandmother and Sally were good friends and helpful neighbors, though both were outspoken, but Grandmother never could forget that when Grandfather wanted the first little daughter named Sarepta, Sally said, "Jane, I suppose if you have another one you will name it Asenath!". Grandmother always added "Sally [had] no business to said that."
Donít think this a sour note upon which to end. The people of that generation were more elemental in their ways of living and of speech, but, too, the elemental virtues of generosity, frugality, sympathy and helpfulness were, if not more widely prevalent, at least more in evidence. Our civilization, while giving us many advantages, has lessened our personal dependence upon one another.
It is time to close. My memories are becoming wanderings. Yet what are memories but wanderings in the garden of Yester Year?
Comella Smith Seabury
(Source: Douglas Seabury Landgon, grandson of Cornella Smith Seabury, sent this story to me just prior to the SmithSeabury-Rowell reunion of 1996 that he and Arlene hosted, It is a remarkable and enchanting story, told by a master storyteller, of the home and life of Benjamin C. Dake, his third wife, Mary Jane Carman Dake and their children. Sarepta (the second) was their oldest living child and the mother of Cornella, then "the boys", Charles, Starks, Earl and Byron, and last was Mary, who was Comellaís beloved Aunt Mary. There was also Ben C.ís two sons by Asenath, Warren and Winslow. There is a requested addition by Jennie Emmalissa Smith Rowell, sister of Cornella. The original typing was done by Dorothy Seabury Langdon, daughter of Cornella and mother of Douglas.)