The Family of Wilber Thomas Dayton Sr.

DFH Volume 1 Issue 17

By Florence “Flossie” [Dayton] Denton (1906-1987)

INTRODUCTION: At our Dayton Family Reunion in 1998, Shirley Bortner, Flossie [Dayton] Denton’s daughter, brought a suitcase full of her mother’s family history, genealogical notes and photographs.  This story, written by Flossie, was among her many notes was the following manuscipt:

On August 31, 1904, Wilber Thomas Dayton, son of Charles Erastus and Nancy Goodnow Dayton, brought home his bride, Jessie Belle White, daughter of Alexander and Anna Maria [Flansburg] White. Wilber and Jessie Belle had just been married in a wedding ceremony at the home of the bride’s parents, who were living on the Lawton farm (now Madison place) on Hadley Hill. The groom was 33 years old; the bride 24.

Wilber and his brother James had been keeping “bachelor’s hall” on the Dayton homestead which had been established by their grandfather, Henry, son of David Dayton, one of the first white settlers in the town of Hadley. The house is no longer there. It burned several years ago, and the area has been divided into several portions. The caretaker’s house now occupies the place where the original house stood.

Wilber and Jessie Belle began their married life in the house built by Henry, while James took the land on the opposite side of the road and lived in a small one room house. Later another small house was moved to the property. Eventually the 2 buildings were combined. As a child, I remember seeing Uncle Jim’s bed which was composed partly of ropes. (NOTE: Now in the possession of Mark Humbert).  He lived there until the death of his brother-in-law, Thomas Roach. Then he went to Greenwich to help his sister, Jennie Dayton Roach, run her farm. He died there at the age of 71.

Jessie Belle and Wilber boarded the schoolteacher the year following their marriage. Her name was Gertrude Austin; hence the middle name of their first child, Flossie Gertrude, born July 19, 1905, who heard from early childhood that she was to be a teacher. I (Flossie) was the last Dayton to be born on the old homestead. About 3 years later the place was sold to Frank Ramsey, who had married my maternal grandmother, Anna Maria Flansburg White, widow of Alexander White. The later had died of a heart attack while plowing his garden on the Lawton place. So my maternal grandmother moved to the house which had been home to my paternal grandparents and great grandparents.

 
Baby Flossie

In 1908 Wilber, Jessie Belle and daughter Flossie, moved to Lake Luzerne, where we lived in part of the Morton house. The large rock over which it stood is still visible on Main Street in Lake Luzerne. I believe mother wanted to be near to a doctor as her second confinement approached. At my birth she had been attended only by a midwife named Mrs. Goodnow. Charles Alexander was born May 4,1908, in Lake Luzerne.

The next winter found us living on Hadley Hill again. This time we were staying at the Kennedy place while dad cut wood for Wm Garner, who own a wood lot nearby. We were living there when the fire broke out on West Mt. My earliest recollection is of spending a night with a neighbor family while the men were fighting fire. Mother and baby Charles were there too. I believe we were at the home of Alford Stewart, who lived on the road that now leads to the fire tower trail. About 1909 mother and dad bought the Lawton place, which, as a bride, mother had left in 1904. I remember the pretty pink locust shrubs that adorned the front of the house and the swing that hung from the butternut tree. My second brother, Chester Arthur, was born on the Lawton place January 6, 1910.  When it became apparent that confinement was eminent, dad hitched the horse to the cutter and drove five miles to Luzerne to get Dr. Thompson. The latter waited to eat a warm breakfast before starting out in the mid-winter snow storm. In the meantime, mother was having difficulty. Injuries suffered at this time affected her health for many years.

Mother did not send me to school until I was nearly 7 years old. She taught me some things at home and encouraged me to sew. We children were brought up on Bible stories. Each time that I memorized a Bible verse, mother would make a garment for my doll. My first school days were spent in a little one room schoolhouse in the East Hadley district. It was toward the end of that term when we moved that summer to Pine Street, Palmer Falls, now part of Corinth. I entered the 1st grade in the Palmer Ave. school at the age of 7.

Our parents had bought 3 contiguous lots, each 50 ft. by 150 ft,  on top of the hill at the lower end of Pine Street. Dad built a small barn in which we lived for a few weeks until the house was habitable. Alon Smith built the house following a blueprint made by mother. Dad painted it pearl grey. However, it is not that color now, and it has been enlarged. It stands at the top of the hill on the right side of Pine Street, as one travels from the mill toward the outskirts of the village.

After working two years unloading wood from the train at the mill, dad longed to get back to farm work. So we sold the house on Pine Street and moved to the Angell District where he took care of Harry Shorey’s farm for about 6 months, Sept. to March. Charles and I attended a one room school taught by Mina Angell. I thought she was perfect. One day at recess the girls were discussing what they wanted to be when grown up. I said, “I want to be just like Miss Angell.” That pleased the teacher. Miss Angell later taught the 6th grade at Corinth school. Finally, she married George Peck and lived in Schenectady. She is buried in the cemetery on the Angell farm.

In March 1914 we moved back to Hadley Hill. Our parents had bought the Gailey place, located between Uncle Will White’s farm and the Gilbert place. In recent years the Gailey farm belonged to the late Mr. Nordmere, so Charles and I and eventually Chester attended the East Hadley Hill school.  The teachers for the next few years were Walter Moore, Ethel Parker, Clara Burnham, Blanche Earls, and Miss Sullivan.  In 1918, I went to Lake Luzerne where I tried the Regents Exams so that I could be admitted to high school.  When Miss Burnham was teaching on Hadley Hill, she gave me private organ lessons for twenty-five cents each.

While we were living on the Gailey place, Frank Ramsey, my step-grandfather, died.  So, my grandmother came to live with us.  She persuaded us to spend the summer of 1916 at her farm, which was the old Dayton homestead.  We did not move our furniture.  One day, as grandma was working in her garden, she told me that there was a cemetery up in the field.  She said some people who used to own that farm were buried there.  Evidently, she did not know they were my great-grandparents.  My father must have known, but he did not hear our conversation. Besides, he did not do much talking. He was very busy trying to earn a living for his growing family. I never knew until about 50 years later whose graves were up there in the field. Imagine my surprise to learn that my great grandparents were buried there.

That was the summer the tornado crossed the valley in front of the house, making a path through the woods and removing a part of Uncle Alex White’s barn roof. He was living at the “vly”, later known as Bell Brook Club. Chester caught his first fish that summer. He was fishing in Dayton Creek across the road from grandma’s house. “I got him! I got him!” he yelled.

We attended Sunday school and worship services in the East Hadley Hill schoolhouse. Billy Green’s wife was the minister, but Billy preached sometimes. He was also the organist, playing a portable organ donated by Mr. Ripley. Rev. Sarah and Mr. Green held services Sunday morning in the West District schoolhouse. In the afternoon they came to the East District. No doubt they held an evening service in the Wesleyan church at Stony Creek. They lived in the parsonage in that village. While we were living at grandma’s house, we were about halfway between the 2 schoolhouses; so some Sundays I attended services at both places.

In the fall we went back to the Galey place, taking grandma with us. She was present for the birth of Wilber Thomas Jr. in October 29, 1916. On December 3rd she married Warren Dingman and went back to her own home. Nobody on Hadley Hill owned a car until about 1917. Uncle Will White was the first resident to buy an automobile. It was a Ford touring car. Although we had no car, we sometimes left home for a day or two. Conklingville, where mother’s sister Bertha Hurd and her family lived, was only about 4 miles away, if one liked to hike, using an abandoned road.

Occasionally dad would hook up the horse and take us up to West Day to visit his sister, Carrie and her husband, Dee Harris. Aunt Carrie wouldn’t sit down to eat until everyone was served. She would insist that you would put plenty of homemade butter on those delicious pancakes and then pour on maple syrup. Her neighbors were impressed by her gas refrigerator. That was before electrification reached their area. I was impressed by the Victrola and the Uncle Josh records. The separator amazed me too. Uncle Dee would come from the barn with milk, pour it into the top of the separator, and turn the crank. Cream and milk would come out of separate spouts! Aunt Carrie raised colts and helped with the barn chores. I thought it was strange to see her wearing men’s shoes.

I remember a trip to Greenwich to visit dad’s other sister, Jennie Dayton Roach and her husband Tom. We took this trip while we were living on Pine Street the first time. Dad, mother, Charles, Chester and I took the bus to Saratoga Springs, where we boarded another bus that took us to Schuylerville. Then we walked about 2 miles crossing the river to Thompson. From there a trolley took us to Greenwich. Then we walked two miles to Aunt Jennie’s farm. My new shoes skinned my heel; so I took them off and walked with bare feet. I remember being impressed by Aunt Jennie’s strutting peacock.

The summer of 1918 we lived on the Charley Kennedy place, which was adjacent to the other Kennedy place where we had resided when Charles was a baby. Dad had sold the Galey farm and was helping Frank Wood do the work on the Ripley farm (formerly Kennedy place). In the fall we moved back to Pine Street, Palmer Falls, so I could go to high school. We repossessed the house we thought we had sold. However, in less than two years we sold it again and moved up town to 11 Mechanic Street, where we were closer to the school, church, and stores. There Paul Delbert was born June 29, 1923. He grew up in that house. When he married Ruth Carter, the newlyweds set up housekeeping upstairs, while mother and dad lived downstairs. Paul and Ruth lived there until they built the home on West Mechanic St.

In my senior year of high school, Mother made arrangements for me to attend the teacher training class in Hudson Falls.    I was to live at the home of the Seventh Day Adventist minister.  During the summer, it was learned that I had been awarded a state scholarship which would provide $100 each year for four years of college.  Harris Crandall, the high school principal, persuaded Mother to let me attend State College at Albany.  Mother accompanied me to the city and found a suitable place for me to live.

My first teaching assignment was in Richmondville, where I taught Latin, History and Civics.  In my second year there, my health broke down and I returned home. The next September I began teaching in the West district on Hadley Hill, living with the Burnhams.  After three years, I started teaching at Porters Corners, but was unable to finish the term.  Much of that year I spent with Mildred and George Archer in Hadley.  In September 1932, I began teaching at Wolf Lake, living at home and driving my car to work.  In February 24, 1934, I married George Denton.   At his request, I resigned my teaching position.

My parents continued to live at 11 Mechanic St until July 18, 1957, when dad died at the age of 86. The following autumn mother went to live with Chester and his wife Elizabeth on Walnut Street. Mother passed away there in January 1958 at the age of 77. Although she had a colostomy in her 60’s, the cause of death was a stroke. For some time, her vision had been poor because of glaucoma.

I have mentioned my 4 brothers only incidentally. However, each has a big place in my heart. In their preteens, Chop and Chip took me over the cliff and down to their secret cave by the river. In later years, they transported me to Hadley Hill when I was teaching there. I remember those walks across the river and above the dam with Charles and Gladys. When I was 19, Chester and I rode bicycles to Greenwich to visit Aunt Jennie and Uncle Jim. Chester taught me to recognize various trees and shrubs. Wilbur was my right-hand man, always doing errands for me at a time when I was suffering from what I now recognize as agoraphobia. Later I was amazed at his scholastic attainments. Paul, who was nearly 18 years younger than I, was my baby brother. I admired his blue eyes and rosy cheeks. One day he surprised me by his dexterity in getting my automobile tire on the rim when I was unable to do so. These 4 fellows, were, and are, quite different in appearance and talents, but so alike in Christian character.

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