CGP Community Stories

David Petri, November 14, 2010

Title

David Petri, November 14, 2010

Subject

Hops industry
Architecture, American
Dairy barns
Dairy farming
Collectibles--United States
Maple sugar industry
Stone walls
Food

Description

David Petri is a longtime resident of Cooperstown, NY and grew up visiting his grandparents’ dairy farm. Petri collects material culture from the surrounding Leatherstocking region and has actively gathered information about farming techniques from central New York farmers.

In this interview, Petri shares his family’s history in the region and goes into great depth about the architectural changes that occurred on the family farm. Petri uses photographs throughout the interview to anchor his discussion. The interview talks about the barn, house, and schoolhouse that are on the property. This leads into explanations of people who influenced his collecting. His grandparents played an important role in his childhood, and Petri shares a lot of information learned on their farm about dairy practices. He also talks about his grandparents’ trips into Cooperstown and their interest in square dancing. About his own life, Petri, shares information about his maple syrup business and his role with local history research including the advisory board at the Farmers Museum. There have been significant changes made from the literal transcription.

Creator

Julie Broadbent

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York- College at Oneonta

Date

2010-11-14

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/wav
1.02MB
audio/mpeg
27.4MB
audio/mpeg
27.4MB
audio/mpeg
27.4MB
audio/mpeg
14.7MB
image/jpeg
4000x3000 pixels

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Sound
Sound
Sound
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image

Identifier

10-112

Coverage

Cooperstown, NY
1956-2010

Online Submission

No

Interviewer

Julie Broadbent

Interviewee

David Petri

Location

New York State Historical Association
Cooperstown, NY

Transcription

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Research and Fieldwork Course (HMUS 520)
Oral History Project
Fall 2010

Interview with David Petri by Julie Broadbent

Interviewer: Broadbent, Julie
Interviewee: Petri, David
Date: November 14, 2010
Location of Interview: NYSHA library, Cooperstown, NY

Archive or Library Repository: New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Description:

David Petri is a longtime resident of Cooperstown, NY and grew up visiting his grandparents’ dairy farm. Petri collects material culture from the surrounding Leatherstocking region and has actively gathered information about farming techniques from central New York farmers.
In this interview, Petri shares his family’s history in the region and goes into great depth about the architectural changes that occurred on the family farm. Petri uses photographs throughout the interview to anchor his discussion. The interview talks about the barn, house, and schoolhouse that are on the property. This leads into explanations of people who influenced his collecting. His grandparents played an important role in his childhood, and Petri shares a lot of information learned on their farm about dairy practices. He also talks about his grandparents’ trips into Cooperstown and their interest in square dancing. About his own life, Petri, shares information about his maple syrup business and his role with local history research including the advisory board at the Farmers Museum. There have been significant edits to the transcription.








Key Terms

Dairy Farming
Hops
Flora Green
Collecting
Architecture
Maple Syrup Production
Auctions
Eureka View Company
P.G. Wales
The Farmers’ Museum
Stone Walls
Square dance
Food
Cooperstown, NY
Hartwick, NY
Marble barn, Farmers’ Museum

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Oral History Project Fall 2010

JB=Julie Broadbent
DP= David Petri

[Start of Track 1, 0:00]

JB:
This is Julie Broadbent interviewing David Petri. I am interviewing him for the Cooperstown Graduate Program’s Community Stories. Today is November 14th [2010] and we are at the New York State Historical Association. We in the conference room at NYSHA library. He’s brought some photographs that he was telling me about, so Mr. Petri.
DP:
Ok
JB:
Tell me about the first one
DP:
The first photograph was in 1885-86. The photo was taken by the Eureka View Company in Bartlett, New York. The photographer was P.G. Wales. The photos are of my farm where I now live that was bought by my family in 1855. My great-great-great-grandfather was seventy years old when he bought the farm. He was born in 1785. He came to Otsego County with his parents in 1793 and they settled on a farm about a mile east of Hartwick, NY. His father John Wells bought the farm from William Cooper. He later bought a farm up on the hill behind his father’s where he raised his family of nine children which he sold in 1855 when he purchased this farm. In the photo are two of his children and his name was Olney Wells. One was Amos Wells and the other was Phoebe. Amos’s son Frank is in the carriage which was made in Hyde Park, New York just north of Hartwick Seminary, south of Cooperstown by Teachout and Sons. The horse they called Kitty. Frank’s wife is the young lady in the photo and she would be the middle person out of the five. Frank’s mother is the second one from the left, and Amos is the fourth one from the left and Phoebe is the fifth one from the left. The house is Greek revival and had a kitchen wing with a wood shed, a shelf, chimneys, or partial chimneys. The house was painted yellow with brown trim. The upstairs windows were six over six, eight by ten glass sash. The downstairs windows were nine over six, eight by ten glass in the sashes as well. The shutters matched the sash the proportion of the lower lonver being shorter than the upper ones. The lilacs that are in the photo are still there. The fence disappeared sometime in the 1890s. It was a board fence with two swing gates. The porches have both been changed, the original Greek revival porches were replaced. The porch on the right which is said to be the front of the house, actually did not face the road as the family used to always call that the front. That porch was widened and Victorianized as was the kitchen porch as well. The road in the front is now County Highway 59, a paved road with a center divider.
JB:
So how has the house changed other than the porches?
DP:
Really the house has changed very little. The chimneys have been removed now there’s an 8 inch flue chimney. There is still shelf chimneys. The wood shed was made into a bedroom in the front and in the back of the bedroom the other part of the wood shed was made into a milk room, where they made cheese and butter. This was strictly a dairy farm, there was no hops ever raised on this farm. Behind the kitchen was a washroom and a stairway that went down into the basement which was a full basement under the main part of the house.
The well was in the back room where the washroom was and there was never a hand pump there, just a bucket and well curb. So that was changed. The wood shed was made into the milk room and the bedroom. The kitchen is pretty much intact, the woodwork is still the same. The stove has been taken out and has been replaced several times obviously. The main section of the house inside the only change that took place there was a bedroom between the kitchen and the everyday parlor. Which the two partitions were removed and that was made into a dining room when dining rooms became fashionable. Behind the dining room was a pantry which has been made into a bathroom and in the pantry was a food safe, which was like a blanket chest. It was essentially built into the floor so it would go down into the cellar. It would keep the food from spoiling. They put eggs and butter and things of that nature in there. The pantry also had numerous shelves and had a small window which was four over four and with eight by ten glass. In front of that window there was a shelf there to wash dishes etc. Then between the pantry and the bedroom what is now a dining room is a stairway that went down into the cellar where they did things in the summer such as churning. The entire ceiling and walls were plaster, in the cellar that was kind of unusual. The plaster on the ceiling has been removed now. The parlor is the same other than that it was painted white. I believe it was originally grained because the bedroom off the parlor still has the original graining.
The original window is in the bedroom off the parlor and is nine over six. The other windows were changed to one over one. The upstairs was changed a little bit. There was a bathroom put at the head of the stairs in what they called the grain room. Where they kept grain and corn and dried food and butternuts and things like that that they were storing for winter use. A lot of people don’t understand that the woodhouse chamber and the attic over the kitchen would have been used for food storage as well. It was a very important area. You didn’t go to the supermarket like you do today. The cellar had pretty high ceilings compared to most cellars today. So there were apple bins and potato bins I remember all that.
In the back of the cellar there was an outside hatchway and later on in 1886, right around that time, the back end of the house was added on. It was Victorian. My great-grandparents put that on there to keep up with the fashion at the time. I believe his cousin built that part and they covered over the hatchway in the back. So basically that’s the changes, the upstairs is pretty much the same. The woodwork in the hall, the banisters are the same. All the floors in the house are pretty much original. The kitchen had some matched flooring put over top of the wide boards. The plasterwork is pretty well done as far as plaster goes I mean. It stayed on the lathe good; it’s nice and smooth. And that’s all original. The windows upstairs are original.
JB:
Has your family lived in the house the entire time?
DP:
From 1855, from the time my great-great-great-grandfather bought it, they’ve owned it. My great-grandfather was born there, my grandfather was born there. My mother was born on the tenant farm.
JB:
And this is where you live now?
DP:
And this is where I presently live, yes.
JB:
And you keep a lot of things, like you were mentioning the shutters?
DP:
I still have the original shutters; they haven’t been put on the house in a long time. When we repainted we didn’t, there’s fifty some of them, so we didn’t put them back on. But the porch posts on what looks to be the side porch here but was called the front porch are now round posts, however the pilaster is still original. The posts could be replicated if we wanted to do that.
JB:
That’s a great photo.
DP:
The Eureka View Company, this P.G. Wales was a travelling photographer that took photos of most every house on the hill and surrounding area. I have quite a few of them that I have collected through the years. Another photographer was the Albany Survey Company and there was another one called the Northern Survey Company. There was three or four of them that traveled around but this P.G Wales was probably the earliest that I know of. It would be quite a collection of negatives if anyone found them.
JB:
How did you get this photograph?
DP:
I am kind of fortunate in the fact that, I probably shouldn’t say fortunate, I don’t have a lot of relatives. My great-grandfather in the picture was an only child. His father, as I said before, was one of nine so everything kind of came down through him. My grandfather had one brother who was killed in the house. He fell over in his highchair and he had one sister, who had one daughter and that one daughter had this photo along with a lot of other family photos. So when she got up in years most of the photos she gave to me. And that’s how I got the photo, she had it and she lived up in Warrensburg. She brought it out one day and I was pretty excited. So that’s how we got that photo.
JB:
How did you become interested in your family’s history?
DP:
I started out there was this lady by the name of Flora Green who used to come and stay with us. She got me interested when I was probably three years, four years old in artifacts. The two things I can remember specifically that she got me interested in was Boston rockers because on her family homestead were always three Boston rockers on the front porch and door latches. My house has many of the original door latches, which is kind of interesting that you have the same door handles that your great- great- great-grandparents used. That’s always kind of fascinating to me. I always liked the sound of door latches. So when I was real small I started collecting hardware and door latches and I have a pretty good size collection of door latches, along with a lot of other hardware. But she was the one who got me interested initially, and I brought a picture of her. She was born 1871; she died at 98, so she died in 1969.
JB:
I’ll just describe the photo a little bit if you don’t mind or would you like to describe it?
DP:
No, you can describe it.
JB:
There is a lady sitting on the front porch with a pine tree in the back it looks like. And it’s a white porch, is that the front of her house?
DP:
I don’t know where that is taken, maybe her daughter’s. She lived with her daughter. Her daughter took care of her the last few years.
JB:
She is wearing white shoes, white tights, and a navy blue dress.
DP:
She always did her hair up in a bun in the back [laugher]. When I was a little kid she knew I liked purple so she always usually wore purple when she came over [laughter]. She was a pretty interesting lady. That is a picture of her in her older years, and this is a picture of her teaching school. She’s standing right there. That’s my school house, that’s within sight of our house. It was built in 1804. It was called the Eddy school house. My farm was originally the William Eddy homestead; before my family bought it, it changed hands numerous times in-between. I have the original lease of 1804 for the school. There’s a book right here at NYSHA that actually says the building was a wood frame building, built in 1804. This was an 1855 book that is here in the collections. The school house is a wooden frame building that was built in 1804. That’s the year of the lease so that makes sense. It tells when it was repaired and so on. I have the earlier book on the school. It’s district number 6 in Hartwick, Otsego County.
JB:
What years did you go to this school?
DP:
I didn’t go.
JB:
This is just on your property?
DP:
Yes, my mother went to school there. This is probably around 1890, oh let’s see maybe ‘91 or 2, I’m guessing this photo was taken. It had the original windows intact yet. The siding had been replaced with novelty. The interior was redone. It has a vaulted ceiling. It has an original transom over the door. Which apparently in the summer they must have taken out because it doesn’t look like it is there in that photo. The door has been replaced but the frame is totally original. It is a plank building, the rafters are half lapped. I always thought it was a little later than 1804 but it makes sense it would be 1804 with the lease. We just found the lease last Christmas 2009. On Christmas day, my mother came out with some papers and she had the lease. I don’t know the children, they are labeled on the original but I don’t know which ones they are. I don’t know if my granddad would be in there or not. I don’t think he is.
JB:
Where is the original? Is this in the NYSHA collection or is this your collection?
DP:
It is mine, actually it is my cousin’s. I have my cousin’s photo.
JB:
Is most of your family still in the area here?
DP:
No, they are scattered about.
JB:
All actively collecting history then?
DP:
No, I am the only one that’s gotten involved in the collecting business. There is like a mudroom when you enter here where the kids hung their coats and over here was a wood storage room. The building is around twenty [feet] by thirty [feet]. In 1818 there were forty-four kids in that school and plus they had the stove in there and the school master’s desk. That closed in 1947, and then they came to Cooperstown. One side of our hill went to Cooperstown school and one side went to Hartwick when they consolidated.
JB:
What side did you go to?
DP:
It was in Cooperstown and the whole hill it’s called Christian Hill. Named after the first Christian church and you could almost draw a dividing line down though it, the hill. One side did all there shopping in Hartwick and the other side did all their shopping, trading they called it, in Cooperstown.
JB:
Why do you think that was?
DP:
I don’t know, they were a little closer but it was kind of a division. And it was a social division almost as well. It was kind of a strange thing. My mother hardly knew the kids in Hartwick. She was born in 1920 and she went to the school. My grandfather born in 1888 and his father was born 1859 and both went to this school. The desks have been changed a few times along the way. The last ones were iron framed. The school teacher’s, the last desk was oak probably a 1920s desk.
JB:
So where is this building now?
DP:
It is on the original site.
JB:
It is?
DP:
Yes, it may have been moved. It may have been in the center of the road. It seems my like grandfather spoke about that, that they skidded it down there and put it where it is today but I’m not sure now that I read the original lease agreement that this was the case. I think it is where it always was. They used to move buildings all the time though, they had rollers, they moved them on what they called tracks. The rollers were six to eight feet long. They were like a spool smaller in the middle and they put what they called a saddle or an arch under the sill of the building. These rollers were put under the arch the smaller sections being greased. Then they laid planks and they could pull them with horses and move the buildings around. There is a collection of those rollers that were in the marble barn when they acquired the barn from Sherman Marble, the Marble boys brought them up and donated them to NYSHA. So they should be down in the storage facility somewhere. That is the only complete set of rollers I have ever seen. And Sherman Marble remembered using them and Dwight Harrison of Mount Vision, he remembered using them too. So they could have moved the building it’s possible.
You can see in the roof [of the school] a little bit of a waver to it. There was no ridge pole. Most of the architecture in our area was half lapped and I don’t know if that was a Rhode Island technique but almost everyone on the hill came from Rhode Island. Other parts of the county you will see center ridge pole construction quite often but you don’t see it at home. There is one house I know that has a pole, it was a center chimney. I do have a photo of that here to.
JB:
Did your family come from Rhode Island?
DP:
They came from Scituate or Providence area. That’s where Olney, my great-great-great-grandfather came from. The genealogy says he was eight months old. I believe it’s an error because the genealogy also says that his father came with his two brothers and they came in 1793 and that would make him eight years old and stories have been said that he walked behind the ox cart. So you can take it whatever way you want. He was probably eight years old when he came. And he was a school teacher but he did not teach at this school. This is the house from what they call the front, before you were looking at the road and the gable.
JB:
So we are looking at it from the north or south side or are we are looking at it from the north side?
DP:
You are kind of looking at it from the northeast. And that’s the blacksmith shop.
JB:
Who was a blacksmith in your family?
DP:
My great-grandfather and his father did blacksmith work. They weren’t professionals at it but they just did it. It was a farm shop. The Eddy family I think were professional blacksmiths some of them. I think it was a blacksmith shop before my family had it. This is the croquet yard.
These are the peonies here these are the original and they are still there. That’s the original step behind there and this was a Rhode Island greening apple tree which of course originated in Rhode Island. They were good winter keeping apples. This would be the parlor chimney; the formal parlor would be here. That was furnished with Hitchcock chairs that my mother has and had a cherry table and then there was two mirrors that were in the family with reverse paintings on the top. Both of them have the acorn crest on them.
JB:
What is the acorn crest?
DP:
On the top of the mirrors
JB:
Oh ok
DP:
Some people call them tabernacles mirrors but I don’t know they were probably made in Utica or Albany. Gaylord up in Utica made such mirrors. The original windows are still here in this photo and the original porch is still intact with the square columns, typical Greek revival. The porch floorboards are wider. I have a close up of the porch. The shutters over top of the porch on eyebrow windows are still in the attic and they were taken off somewhere along the way. The yellow rose bush, a Harrison Yellow, is there yet. It’s not very healthy but it’s still there. The back of the house there was one big room that was kind of a kitchen and dining room and living room combination. There’s a parlor in the back which still has the paper from 1910 when my grandparents were married, with big wide borders and there were two bedrooms upstairs and a hall in the back. It’s not very wide, it is a very narrow structure. It has a flat roof, solder seam, a steel roof, which is original. The wooden shingles on the main house were on there until they were replaced in 1910 with sheet steel and that roof is still on there. The chimney on the parlor is kind of interesting with an arched brick work over top.
I’m trying to think what else is interesting there. From left to right, the lady is my great-great- grandmother, then my grandfather, and then his father, and then my grandfather’s cat, that he thought a great deal of. He had to take it to school with him the first day he went to school. Then there is his mother and his brother that was killed with his great-aunt, Amos’s sister. Amos isn’t in the picture; I don’t know what the story was there, my great-great-grandfather. You can see the porch boxes too on pillars.
JB:
Well it sounds like you try to keep a lot of things the same especially with landscaping and the front of the house.
DP:
We really don’t change it much. See the porch came right flush with the addition. Now it extends out beyond it. They raised it a little bit and they widened it and I think probably the reason they raised it was to gain more light in the house. Some of the original shingles are still under the tin. I think they were chestnut. American chestnut was common around here then.
JB:
So was your family active in the community in Cooperstown?
DP:
My great-grandfather had a butter and cheese route in Cooperstown where he peddled butter and cheese and it was called tub cheese. My mother’s cousins said it was a little different texture from cottage cheese. I haven’t heard anybody else speak of the term tub cheese but that is what she called it. My grandfather had an egg route when I was a kid in Cooperstown. I don’t know about my great-great grandparents. I don’t know. They must have peddled their butter, I would think, because they made a lot of butter, there were a lot of butter prints in the family. A lot of cheese making equipment, there’s a cheese press. It’s not a screw type press, it operates under a fulcrum type of set up where you change different pins to put pressure on the cheese, to press the cheese but it is a very early press. They have a churn that was made in Fly Creek. Fly Creek had three different churn makers that made butter churns that I know of. I have seen them marked, three of them. They had a butter worker which was a real crude one, a regular fan shaped butter worker. Which I’m sure there is one in the collection here at NYSHA. The butter prints one was an eagle and one had a rooster on it and then there was a pineapple print. I remember my grandmother actually using those things at certain occasions.
JB:
Special occasions?
DP:
No, she made butter a couple of different times when they had extra cream. She knew how to do all that her family was very self-sufficient more so than my grandfather’s side. My grandfather’s father was more of the type that would modernize and keep up with the times. My grandmothers’ father he did everything in kind of a primitive way. In fact, my grandfather used to get upset at him.
JB:
Over any particular thing?
DP:
Because he wouldn’t modernize. He did everything by hand. Where my great-grandfather, on my grandfather’s side, he was one of the first ones around to have a corn harvester and he paid for it the first year, down on the grasslands farm down here, below Cooperstown. He had a milking machine pretty early too that operated with a big pulley. I remember the pulley well, it was in the wagon house behind the barn. The dairy was never very large. My grandfather kept anywhere from six to fifteen or sixteen cows. He had room for sixteen cows if he squeezed them in. Milkers and then he had young cattle besides, his father had about the same. Which I mean fifteen cows in the 1890s would have been a sizeable farm. This farm that my great-great- great-grandfather bought was ninety acres when he bought it. It was two farms put together, a thirty acre and a sixty acre farm and then my great-grandfather brought on a fifty acre farm and then he bought another fifty acre farm. So he was pretty vigorous in expanding the productivity of the farm.
JB:
Did he expand the cattle herd at the same time or did he go into other crops?
DP:
I believe he probably did because the original barn was twenty-six by thirty-six and that was a three bay barn. [Track 2, 0:00] In 1877 they raised it up and put a stone foundation under the barn and added another twenty-four feet on. And then eventually he added a lean-to onto the back and that was actually where the cows where, and that was a wooden stable floor. When he died my grandfather came back over to the home farm from the tenant farm, poured the concrete floor on the front part of the barn which was previously all horses. His father had all that for horses and he tore that all out and he put the horses and young cattle in the back where his father had his cows on one end and then the young cattle on the other end. That was built in the 1890s. The lean-to was very poorly built. It was built out of basswood the frame and siding. We have a lot of basswood on the farm so that’s what he had on hand. I actually took that down; it was in pretty rough shape when I took it down. And then he had a pretty good sized chicken house quite a ways from the house and he had a windmill to pump water up to the house. It was a wooden-framed windmill. The iron work on it, I believe was made in New York because I was looking at a windmill book one day and that was the only iron work that I could see that it compared to what we have. I still have the iron work. There was a water trough inside and outside the barn. I think it was setup so they were always the same level. It had a two inch pipeline that came up from the swamp which was probably 500 foot long. And then in front of the house was a vat under the porch by the kitchen.
JB:
Do you still use the property as a farm at all?
DP:
No, I have real bad allergies so I don’t have any animals at all.
JB:
Was that a problem growing up?
DP:
Yes, [laughter] it hasn’t gotten any better either.
JB:
Do you ever remember if the blacksmith shop back here working?
DP:
No, I have a close up photo of my mother standing in front. My grandfather took it down and he gave it actually he gave the entire foundry [actually the tire bender]to NYSHA, The Farmers’ Museum. I have the anvil. The bellows got sold somewhere along the way. I still have the felly saw for cutting out the fellys for the wheels and some of the tongs. My grandfather thought quite a bit of the anvil being that it was his father’s and grandfather’s. I have some of my great-grandfather’s work: a boot scraper and a few things like that. He was quite apt to use it to patch links in chains and sometimes they were pretty crude. They weren’t concerned with fancy work as much as they were utilitarian use.
JB:
Do you think having all the blacksmith stuff there started your collection early?
DP:
No, I think Flora Green, the lady in the other photo I showed you, she was the one who got me started. My grandparents, my grandmother certainly didn’t discourage it. She was quite interested in saving things too. The rest of the family didn’t like that trait in her particularly. She used to make carpets, rag carpets, and she had a loom. We had two looms, one of them was the one in Lippitt [Farmstead at The Farmers’ Museum] over there now and the other loom my grandmother had was a more modern one with metal reeds, we sold that after she got blind, she couldn’t do it anymore. One of the girls that worked here, Ginny Marlette, bought that.
JB:
What did your grandmother collect?
DP:
She was quite adept at collecting old hinges and horseshoes and things. She was kind of an interesting person in that respect, she didn’t throw much away. The chairs that I talked to you about before the Hitchcock’s that were in the parlor. My grandfather sold them to an antiques dealer in Cooperstown for 90 bucks and she managed to talk to the antique dealer in to selling them back to her for the same price. But she didn’t bring them home she left them in a house in Cooperstown. When my mother got married, she gave them to my mother as a wedding present. My grandfather didn’t really have a lot of respect for old things. There were a few things he thought a lot of like the anvil but my grandmother was a little different. She was a saver.
JB:
Did she help you collect?
DP:
She certainly didn’t discourage it, let’s put it that way. [laughter]
JB:
Was your mother or father a collector?
DP:
No not at all, they would get rid of stuff if I didn’t watch them close. My mother has an interest in the family history and family things, I mean, she has some of that around at her house but other families she has no interest in. Even though we are related to half the families around here. Most of the family’s ties, they had ties before they even came here, the Rhode Island people. They came here in the groups like the Amish do today, real similar. There is the Steers, the Winsors and the Wells and the Aplins and they all have families and a lot of others came from Rhode Island. There are a lot of articles in the Freeman’s Journal, Cooperstown papers that talk about the reunions and how they were related. That photo has always been around the house.
JB:
So here’s a question for you; since your family has been in Cooperstown and the surrounding area for generations how did that influence you growing up here in Cooperstown?
DP:
Well, I think my grandfather and my father brought me into The Farmers’ Museum when I was a kid. I remember seeing a grain cradle and my grandfather indicated he had one like it. And so I had to see what that looked like so that certainly did not discourage me. I think The Farmers’ Museum played an important role in my collecting. I mean I used to come up here all the time looking at examples because I wanted to see not just one item but see a group of items. And in those days a good share of the collection was on display so you could do that. And then they had the weaving loft, of course that fascinated me. And there was a lady who worked at the museum named Virginia Partridge and she didn’t discourage me any. And, George Campbell he grew up in the area and he was a farmer and he worked for the Clarks and eventually he was made a curator even though he didn’t have any formal education to speak of. I don’t know how much formal education Virginia had, but she was very knowledgeable on weaving. And she set up the weaving loft which is now gone. So those people played an important role in my being interested in agricultural techniques and the common people. I am interested in the way the wealthy live but I always thought that the way the common people lived had been ignored a great deal and some of the most common practices people don’t even realize existed today.
I had one old guy over in Edmeston tell about cutting wood with an ax, firewood with an ax. He said, they didn’t even use a saw, and I said, well how did you do it Newell. And he said, well, you cut the tree down of course with the ax and then they cut the firewood into lengths with the ax, and he described it and we made drawings of how he did it and he said, “if it was easy splitting you could do it as quicker with an ax as you could with a saw”. I said, how did you do it? Well, he said, you cut straight down with the ax and you cut at an angle, and then he said, you hit the end it to slab it off. Then you cut it straight down and angle it again and cut off another slab. When you are done it is like a straight cut and you start to the next block. And I said, well how common was this, and he said, everyone did it. But my cousin who was 97 years old, worked at Sturbridge village had never heard of that being done. So that was one thing, one of many things that through the years I’ve run across talking to other people that have been forgotten. Another thing was that early type of hay knife nobody could tell me how they worked. I’d asked people who were in their 90s and they couldn’t tell me but one day I was talking to a fellow that lived up on the lake by the name of Rufus Thayer, who a lot of people in the area still remember and he said that’s the only kind of hay knife we had. And I said, well how did they use it Rufus, and took his two hands and they went up and down. It wasn’t a cross type of cut, it was up and down and the blade was offset so you wouldn’t rip your hands on the hay but no one else knew how to use them. These hay knives are all over the place. Most farms had them and never threw them away so that was another thing that has been forgotten and I think it’s true of a lot of the household practices.
Another lady that played an important part in my collecting and the detail would be Ada Harris and there’s some of her collections here at NYSHA. She was an antique dealer. We talked about different things. When The Farmers’ Museum was redoing the grounds, and what have you, we talked about the practices. I asked what they did for toothbrushes and she was the type of lady she even had some old toothbrushes. And most people don’t get into those things in such detail but I mean it’s important.
A lot of cooking practices and what have you have been saved because we have recipe books but a lot of the farming techniques everybody did them and everyone took them for granted that we are going to remember these things and that’s not the case. I’m sure that there were things done in the house that were the same way and I imagine there are a lot of people that would agree with me on that. But, this fellow’s name was Noel Talbot that told me about cutting wood with an ax and he actually did it and he never drove a car. He used to walk all over and he used to mow cemeteries with a scythe and he used to sharpen fence poles by hand. Behind his house was a big pile of chips where he sharpened the posts. When he was 90 years old he still cut his wood with a two man cross cut saw. He took the handle off of one end. He was an archeologist and when you went into his house there were piles of stones in all the corners. I said to him one day, what’s your favorite Indian artifact that you ever collected? He thought for a minute and he said, I would say, he says, I have three pieces of wood cut with a stone ax, and I said, well how did you find those? He said they were in the blue clay, in the ground in the blue clay and that sealed them and therefore they didn’t rot and so he had those three pieces. Some of them are over in Edmeston in the museum now. But that was his favorite artifact. He was a very interesting man. He had gardens right up until he was in his 90s. So there’s a lot of people that had an influence on my interests. I can list many many around Cooperstown, around Otsego County, mostly Otsego County, some Madison [County].
I had a guy with the name of Glade Keith, he went for a walk with me in the woods. I was interested in center chimney houses and cooking hearths and so on. He was 95 when we walked through the woods. To what they called the Tew farm, that was the family’s name, I believe it was Tew, may have been Dutch I don’t know but we walked back in through the shag alders and here was this big pile of brick and the hearth stones they were still there. It was a pretty interesting experience. He was a pretty amazing man. He was a gun collector. He actually made gun parts. He collected guns all his life. So there’s a lot of people; most of them are gone now. I used to, as I got older, called them up on the phone and asked them questions. I spent quite a lot of time when they redid the museum calling a lot of the older people and asking them what they remember about rail fences. And the one thing that I remember specifically was that post and rail were not common around here. It was mostly crisscross fences for rail fences. We had an abundance of hardwoods in this area so there was not a shortage of trees. So the crisscross fences could be made pretty easy and they were also portable. You could take them down and move them real easily. Most of the stone walls, for the most part, were the exterior fences, the boundary fences. Your neighbor’s line and your line and they were permanent so you put the stones there, you laid the stone walls. When they first cleared the farms they made a lot of stump fences and then they heaved stones into the stumps and stuff and when the stumps rotted away they laid the stone walls and the stump fences were very effective. They would interweave them with brush and small samplings but most like I say of the permanent fences were stone wall exterior fences. I have seen one ax in this area for cutting mortise’s for [making] post and rail fence. So that’s an indicator right there. If you go on the internet and on eBay you will see all kinds of axes for making fences but they will be in Pennsylvania or someplace usually, not here. So that’s another indicator when you see very few of a tool, I mean, it tells you quite a bit. I mean everyone had a shingle froes, I mean, you find them around everyone had a draw knife and most of the draw knifes have survived. A lot of the shingle froes are gone but draw knives have survived because they had uses for these things. It’s like a hog scraper candle holder. They survived because they had another use; they scraped pigs with them so the candlesticks survived. Every farm pretty much had some of them around.
JB:
Does your house property have the stone wall on it?
DP:
Our farm still has the stone walls but they are not in the best of shape, most of them are down. They are still there, ours is one of the few that does on the hill. Most of the stone walls went into the highways when they started having cars and the mud would be deep in the spring and they would throw the stones in there. So the main road between Hartwick and Cooperstown County Route 11 you will see very few stone walls and that’s where they went. I talked to old people who actually remembered doing that. So that’s where the stone walls went.
The rail fences a lots of them survived quite late but they used to boil sap with and that was kind of the end of those. There were a lot of people who remembered them yet when I was a kid. You would be hard pressed to find many today that would remember. A lot of the stone walls if they were short you could put what they call a rider rail on the top. And make like a saw buck with two short poles that would straddle over top of the stone wall then lay the rider rail and sometimes they might run a one wire, barbed wire when it came, across on top of that. But there became a time when they didn’t maintain the walls. But there were what they call fence viewers in the old days and that was a big thing. Every town had a fence viewer maybe more than one. They would check the fences and you better keep your fences up because maybe you would get a fine, I don’t know, but they had fence viewers. It’s like the Robert Frost poem, good fences make good neighbors.
So there was a lot of stone walls, there were a lot of stone arch bridges in the area. We had a real fabulous one not far from the house which I have a photo. If our ancestors were to come back today, they might not even hardly know where they were. A few of the buildings would be familiar and maybe some of the big rocks. But, when you talk about the early settlement when they cleared the land of the big trees and they had the stumps. In those days they used a [grubbing hoe a lot] to grub around. You couldn’t plow in the beginning because of the roots and what have you and the topsoil was really deep. So they used these grubs, these big heavy grubs, which I have a few of, to work up the soil and you didn’t have a lot of the weeds you have today because a lot of the weeds were brought in with the grass seeds and such. They used to be pretty particular about that. They used to fan all that out before they planted things.
JB:
What do you think some biggest differences are, it can be even in your lifetime?
DP:
I’ve seen the biggest change in my lifetime was probably the dairy farms went from cans to bulk tanks and milking parlors. I can remember the first milking parlor I saw was actually out in Illinois. My father went to school in Madison, Madison University. They had a milking parlor set up there and that was the first one I ever saw. Our farm, like I said, was a fifteen cow farm which at that point was already becoming a small farm when I came into the world. A forty cow farm was more typical at that time. That’s probably the biggest change in my lifetime. In my great-grandfather’s lifetime they had numerous cheese factories around here. And they’d take the milk to the cheese factory. They had what they called cheese factory cans, they were great big milk cans. They’d probably hold 25-30 gallons, some of them were a little smaller than that. They varied depending on the size of your dairy. But there was a lot of little farms, my father had six cows on the Brookwood school farm in Toddsville when I was a kid. He put the cans in the ‘57 Chevy and brought them to Cooperstown on the way to work at the bank. So there were still a lot of those little farms with just a few cows. If you go back further than that, I mean, in Cooperstown you had people who had a cow or two and horses right in the village. The old timers, they retired and they’d move to town and kept one cow. There was lady by the name of Browning, my father used to tell me that she had a jersey cow when he was a kid in Cooperstown, so you have those changes. The early farms were very diversified, I mean, you raised everything you needed like buckwheat and flax and all that. It must have been pretty interesting to see all the plots with different types of crops and then came in the hops probably about 1835-40, the hop businesses began to really come into Otsego County.
They say that the Taylor family and the Hind’s family they were two of the early hop growers who brought the hops into Otsego County. I agree that the Taylor family might have been because they had a very early hops kiln there and also the Clarke family, from Hyde Hall, were big in bringing the hops into the area. After 1835-40 the hops business was really beginning to take off and environmentally it probably had a negative impact. They cleared off the side of hills, even around the lake. And they could make a lot of money in a hurry. Some people lost money but a lot of them made a lot of money. A lot of your big Greek revivals and Victorians were built from hop money, as were the barns. In Middlefield, almost every farm had a hop yard. I talked to one old guy who lived just a year or two from being one hundred and I said to him, how many acres of hops did your father have, and he said about four acres. He said believe me that’s a lot of hops. He said, my father liked them but I didn’t like them so well. It was a lot of work. Some farmers didn’t raise hops, on my farm they didn’t raise hops because my great-great-grandmother was a staunch Baptist. She wouldn’t let them raise hops. I always said that the hop business was, and some people disagree with me on this, but my feeling was that it was one of the most divisive crops ever raised. There were some families that raised the hops, that had hops, and I don’t think they even thought about what they were used for. They were strong church going families but it was a crop and they sold the crop and the beer was made after it left the farm so they didn’t consider it not to be a sinful thing I guess and then there were people like my great-great-grandmother who would have nothing to do with them. I can name quite a few farms in Hartwick where there were never any hops grown. There were never any hops grown on the Armstrong farm over in Plainfield which NYSHA has a collection on that.
So there has been a lot of changes. The dairy industry took off and up until 1830-40 most of the farms had very few cows for mostly home use but then around the same time as the hop industry took off the dairy took off when the Erie Canal came in. You had a way to transport and then the railroad came in and that changed things dramatically. New York State was a pretty progressive area, I mean, we had foundries and potteries and silversmiths all along the canal. So things changed very rapidly in this state, I mean, it’s called the Empire State. We were number one in agricultural, we were number one in manufacturing. The Hudson Valley was a great fruit growing area, I mean, it was entirely, the Finger Lakes area. Both of those areas were entirely different climate wise. We always figured about two weeks difference between here and the Hudson Valley. They could raise different types of fruit there that didn’t do so good here but we would raise certain types of fruit that grew better here than did there. This state was a great exporter of fruit. The Newtown Pippin was one of the most popular apples raised in the Hudson Valley and then the Spitzenberg came in and the Esopus. The Rhode Island people of course brought the Rhode Island Greening which is why there was probably one in our yard. So there have been an awful lot of changes. I remember the fruit farms along the Hudson Valley when we lived there and today there are very few of them left. But in this area, really its strength was dairy farming because you had a lot of good grazing land and we had a lot of variation in soil around here, I mean, we have some of the river bottom, areas where there’s not a lot of stone.
JB:
What do you think has stayed the same in Cooperstown or even in the county?
DP:
Well, one lady said one day, she was talking, she said that things hadn’t changed in Cooperstown hardly at all. We have a lot of the same buildings and we have the lake. The east side of the lake is wooded because the Clark family bought that up. The east side of the lake hasn’t changed an awful lot, some of the land was cleared but now that’s grown back up. Some of the architecture is the same but some of it has been lost too. I remember one fire on the corner of Pioneer and Main, next to the iron clad. A lot of the architecture has been changed. I think that lots of times people overlook the simple little intricate parts of architecture. They’ll do a restoration they call it but in my mind it’s not a true restoration unless you go for detail. And I think sometimes we move too fast. We don’t think before we start doing work on a building and I see that all the time. I see a lot of the interior woodwork being wasted and I see exterior woodwork being wasted. Personally, I wouldn’t replace a lot of it, but it’s changed a great deal.
I mean, when I was a kid we could buy anything we wanted to on Main Street in Cooperstown. We went to Oneonta once or twice a year and that was a big occasion. My grandparents came to Cooperstown; they were five minutes from Cooperstown. They came once a week on Friday morning to deliver their eggs and buy their groceries and you could buy boots, you could go to the watchmaker, you had shoe stores, shoe repair shops. I am trying to think there was one morning we were talking about gas stations in the diner and I think there were almost ten gas stations in Cooperstown. We had several car dealerships, I can think of 1-2-3-4-5-6. We had two hardware stores; we had McGown’s on the corner by the flag pole. When I was a kid the tin shop was still in there with the original stove and everything. There was McGown’s and Danny’s market which was up by the Hall of Fame a regular typical country grocery store. [Track 3, 0:00] The one that is there now was named after it. There was Michael’s Meat Market. You could buy any kind of meat there pretty much. We had the two banks side by side. Cook’s Garage had gas pumps in front of it. The bakery is still there. We had Western Auto where you could buy anything for your car and they sold bicycles and lawn mowers and that kind of thing, cooking utensils, that was a good store. We had several barbershops that are gone. Some things are the same, the Jordan cottage on the corner by the traffic light is similar to what it was. If you look at old photos there used to big elm trees there but of course the elms are gone. When I was a kid there were very few trees along Main Street in Cooperstown. That’s one thing I do like that has taken place they’ve put in a lot of trees. I’m not sure I would go with the lindens and stuff that they have, I like native things more. The bridge has been changed.
JB:
What did you used to do in town when you were younger?
DP:
I used to come with my grandparent and my parents to shop. My grandfather, he would buy us candy bars those were the only candy bars we got. My parents weren’t big on that kind of thing.
JB:
Were you able to socialize with kids in your own age group in town or did you do that outside of town?
DP:
No, when we came to town it was strictly to shop, for the most part, and they would go into the bank and do their banking and that type of thing. No, we didn’t stay very long, we delivered the eggs and bought the groceries and picked up whatever else they needed. My grandmother still always said she was going trading. That was the old time term and she stuck with that, but like I said they came once a week. During the week we had lots of work to do on the farm. We had big gardens, there were always weeds to pull, carrots and things to thin. I had gardens up here and also at my mother’s down in Oneonta but I was up here all summer long pretty much. I would be down there one day a week in the summer that was about it. I preferred being on the farm.
JB:
So I just want to clarify this just a little bit like were exactly where you were. So you grew up in Cooperstown?
DP:
I started out in Cooperstown. I was five when my father got transferred. He had the Brookwood school farm. So we lived two years in the city of Hudson. My dad built a new house out in Claverack. We lived there for two years then he was transferred back to Oneonta. So I graduated from Oneonta. Then I worked down there a couple of years and I moved up here in ’76 on the farm. I was up here pretty much every night. I came up almost every night. I had a syrup operation that I started as a kid. I made maple syrup so I had to cut wood and do things like that. My grandparents were up in years at that point, they were in their 80s. Someone had to help them out and my grandfather milked until he was 85.
JB:
How did you get started in the maple syrup business?
DP:
A friend of mine and myself, we tapped a few trees down in Oneonta, small trees. We always kind of laugh about it today we talk about it occasion they were small trees and we drilled right through them and put a spigot on both sides. And the first year we made a couple of quarts and then the next year I decided to tap some trees at home. My grandfather didn’t want to do it. He didn’t want to burn up the wood to make syrup. But we tapped some and after I got them tapped he said, if you are going tap trees let’s go tap some more so that we can make syrup, and we made five gallons the second year and then we made fifteen gallons and then after five-six years I bought an evaporator and made 60 gallons and then I bought a bigger evaporator and we got up to where we made 250 gallons. And I used to dream about having a big operation with tank trunks on the road and so on but thank goodness I outgrew that.
JB:
Why?
DP:
There was never a lot of money in it. And if you are going to get into it today you would need an a reverse osmosis machine. I like doing it the old way. I don’t particularly enjoy sap houses today. We always boiled with wood, I like having the pans open, I like to see the sap boiling, I like to smell the steam.
JB:
You still make it today?
DP:
No, my father got Parkinson’s and he kind of helped me out and I had to tap at least three hundred with the big evaporator so it just sits there but maybe someday. We still have the sugar bush. I got the maples; they are getting better all the time. There was an old sugar bush on the farm and my grandfather cut those trees off in the 40s. These are younger trees, 50- 60 years old tops. Some of them are a couple of feet tall now, they are getting good sized. But I always liked making syrup but as I said there was very little money in it. You would starve to death. You have to have a big operation; it’s like dairy farming. It was my grandmother’s dream that I would run the farm but I knew that wasn’t going to work with my allergies anyways so.
I would have had to build a new barn. Our barn was pretty primitive. The ceiling was pretty low and the stables were pretty crude. The milk house was very small. We have photos of it here. My grandfather shipped his milk that went by can. He was a chartered dairymen’s league member. He first shipped to Hartwick and they closed that plant so he shipped to Milford and then as the can dairy started to go out they closed the one in Milford and then they shipped it to, I think it was Fly Creek next and then we went to Cooperstown to the Sheffield plant and then onthe last they were shipping the milk clear to Bridgewater. When he sold the cows, I guess, he more or less had to because he knew it was the demise of it. But there were several trucks that picked up canned milk when I was a kid, they’d double deckered them on the truck. The cans. Figured 80 pounds to a 10-gallon can. But that was the standard can probably, I’m trying to think, the oldest cans were usually riveted and would probably be 1880 and it was a 10 gallon. I’m guessing 1880 is probably when they started using those. And the cheese factory cans some of them could go back quite a bit further than that. I think they were made by the tinsmiths.
JB:
Did you help your grandfather on the farm with milking cows?
DP:
Oh yes.
JB:
Did you use the milking machine?
DP:
I did when I got up in years pretty good. He didn’t want anyone else to milk his cows until he got to the point when he had trouble keeping up with it. And, then the last year the milking machine got bad and we milked the last couple of cows by hand and then we made butter and had veal calves. Yes, I used to always dump the milk for him. He dumped the milk into pails and then we strained it. We actually strained it in the barn, people would frown on it today. But I sat there and he had a couple of milk stools and would quiz him when he was milking cow about different types of farm techniques. His dad used to milk with a lantern. He had what he called a lantern slide, a wire that ran the length of the barn and there was on S hook which I still have and they would slid that from cow to cow as they milked, the lantern. So that is another change when they had electric you know. But his father’s first milking machine was what they called a Burrell Kennedy and Little Falls Milker, I actually have a pamphlet for that. They milked two cows at once with the machine. The pails were tapered, slanted down on each side. But there’s been a lot of changes in dairy.
JB:
Do you think that’s one of the reasons why your father didn’t go into?
DP:
Well, he had his six cow dairy in Toddsville that he milked by hand. No, he wanted to get into farming. He worked for his uncle for years and the promise was that he would end up with the farm. He didn’t get the farm and so he started mowing lawns in Cooperstown and he mowed the right lawn, that’s how he ended up at the bank. He always helped my grandfather, it was a family deal. I mean we’d be out almost every weekend fixing fences and doing things. We had a lot of fences and a lot of pastures on the farm and then we cut wood of course we burned wood. There were lots of things to do, a lot of trimming and stuff, a lot of side work. My grandfather was a little backward; he didn’t keep up with the times like his father did. He had one little tractor, which I still have, an Oliver 60 that ran the 130 acres. He bought the tractor the year I was born. He had one before that he had a little International. I still remember the tail end of the horses but that tractor he bought the year was I was born, the mower he bought brand new, the tractor it was already used. It was kind of a nuisance switching equipment when you have one tractor. He made a go of it, he survived. Most of the farm people around here didn’t have a lot and that’s why the architecture had stayed unchanged and when the farms went up, people bought the places up and they had more money the people who came in and they didn’t want a crude cook stove in their kitchen. They wanted a modernized sink so those things went. I remember going with my grandparents, house after house was pretty much the same. They had a cook stove, usually had a round oak or chunk stove in the living room and the houses were neat as a pin most of them inside but they were pretty crude, some of the kitchens had been wainscoted over. My kitchen has never been changed the drying hooks were still in the ceiling when I was a kid. When we redid the ceiling; they were taken out, I still have them. But as far as the kitchen being intact the one at home is probably about as original as you are going to find the woodwork and what have you.
That’s what it was it was a dairy farm strictly. They used to drive the cows up the road. The day pasture was up the road. They probably drove the cows probably 6-700 feet up the road, up the county road which was dirt. I have photos here somewhere of that, and then they put them in a gate, a swing gate and that was the day pasture and the night pasture was right by the barn more. Today you would get killed driving the cows up the road.
JB:
So growing up on a farm. Did it skew how you view food now like do you go to Price Chopper or do you go to the farmers’ market?
DP:
I go to the farmers’ market quite often I buy fruit there. I go to Hannaford quite a bit. Yes, it changes your perspective on things. We used to put a lot of produce in the cellar. Used to figure about twenty to twenty-five bushels of apples, at least thirty bushels of potatoes, probably ten bushels of carrots, probably three bushels of beets somewhere around that, a couple bushels of turnips and rutabagas, thirty head of cabbage, used to put a lot of squash in, some pumpkins. Squash they kept under the beds upstairs.
JB:
Why?
DP:
They kept good under the beds my grandmother said, some they kept in the barn. The onions were kept up in the hallway upstairs. They wouldn’t keep in the cellar, the cellar was kind of damp. It was ideal for the potatoes. But I figured it out one time it was well over one hundred bushels we used to put in the cellar in those days but all my grandparents lived till I was twenty years old so, I mean, we had to raise enough for them too and they ate a lot of potatoes. One of the things, we talked about this the other day in church, they had lasagna at church and I think very few of the younger generation realize. My grandmother went to the hospital and they gave her lasagna. She didn’t know what it was. I can see her taking her fork and trying to figure out what it was. Her way of cooking was real simple, they boiled and baked potatoes. They didn’t eat a lot of meat, very little meat. My mother often talks about that and maybe that’s why my mother is 90 years old and my grandparents were in their 80s and 90s when they passed away. They didn’t spice things up, hardly at all. They had lots of pie, if anything they had lots of pie. My grandmother would make cakes from scratch, butternut cakes. The icing would be made out of maple sugar. They used a lot of syrup we used to use about 15 gallons of syrup when my grandparents were alive.
JB:
The syrup that you tapped?
DP:
Yes, maple syrup, so I mean, she would sit down at night and have a little dish of syrup some times before she went to bed. She grew up on it. Her family never bought white sugar, they used maple sugar and they shaved it off. They made the sugar in bread tins and they put it in the attic and when they needed sugar they would shave it off and that was their sugar. Her mother would take her eggs to Hartwick. See now her mother, her family, she lived on the Hartwick side, she would take her eggs in a pail of oats and trade them for molasses she would take her molasses jug and they would fill it at the store from the barrel. And that was one of the few things they bought. They made a lot of molasses cookies, big ones. I remember my grandmother baking a lot of those. They didn’t eat things like brussel sprouts and kohlrabi. They never spoke of kale. They raised cabbage. Broccoli, I never remember my mother’s parents having broccoli until later years when I started raising it. I never heard a lot about cauliflower either. Lots of onions, lots of peas, my grandparents used to peddle peas in Cooperstown. My mother had to pick them all the time, in fact she would enjoy picking peas. I can remember her picking them when I was a kid we had a lot peas that we didn’t sell unless someone came and pleaded for some. Lot of beans, we ate lots of beans and radishes, some lettuce. Not as much lettuce as you would think either. They weren’t big on salads, cabbage salad and potato salad, which she chopped in a wooden bowl. She didn’t have a blender; she could do it quick, very fast with a handmade chopping knife.
I don’t remember her cooking in a lot of iron kettles but she did cook some in iron kettles but by that time stainless steel had come out and she was an elderly lady and she liked that stainless steel pretty while. They used to have stainless steel parties and she would buy the stainless steel but she had all the iron pots to cook in. She did use iron frying pans. She cooked on a wooden stove but she had an electric stove too. She kind of liked a few of those modern conveniences. She was pretty happy with a refrigerator but we had an exceptionally good cellar, I mean, you could keep anything in there and it would stay cool all year long. They made homemade soup. They did use bought soup that was my grandmother, not my great-grandmother she wouldn’t. Then everybody had a treadle sewing machine, there’s three or four of them around home yet.
JB:
Would that have been a Singer treadle sewing machine?
DP:
Well there’s two Singers, my great- great- grandmother had a Singer and my father’s mother had a Singer. My grandmother had a different kind, I can’t remember the name of that. That’s gone, we got rid of that. My mother didn’t like it she got rid of it. And my grandmother’s mother’s is a different make too and I don’t remember the name of it. There were quite a few sewing machine makers at one time. And when the sewing machines gave out they used the bases for storage tables in the cellar. But they were all pretty good, my sister learned to use a treadle sewing machine she was actually pretty good at it. My grandmother taught her. Of course we didn’t have a record player, we had a victrola. My mother and father had a record player but my grandparents had a victrola, which actually came from Mary Imogene Bassett’s house, it was hers.
JB:
How did they get that?
DP:
My grandfather went to the auction and bought the victrola, two rugs, and two prints, wall prints. And the victrola was a Senora and I can remember that being played a lot when I was kid. It’s actually has a pretty good sound as far as victrolas go. That was kind of their entertainment. He was a square dance caller and he had a lot of square dance records. A lot of polka records and foxtrot and waltzes and they were big dancers. My grandparents danced when they were up in years pretty good, she still danced when she was over ninety.
JB:
Did you dance with them?
DP:
No, I never danced very little but one guy made the comment, he said that when your grandparents’ square-danced it was graceful, most graceful square dancing he ever saw. And I said I never thought of square dancing to be very graceful but they had plenty of practice. I’ve got lots of their letters, they wrote back and forth before they were married and they were going to dances all the time. And they had hop dances, there were a lot of hop dances. They had house dances, my grandfather was a square dance caller and he played the guitar and when they had a square dance they cleaned out three rooms in the house. Usually the dining room and the two parlors, the living room parlor, take the furniture out on the porches. He sat in the middle room and called the dances. My grandmother said you could hardly breath the dust was so thick in the old houses, from the floors, but he called a lot of dances in a lot of different houses around Cooperstown. There’s a tape recording of my grandparents here at NYSHA in the library somewhere. In fact, I think we have a copy of it at home. The old guitar there are hollows in-between the frets. It tells you how much he played that. And, when he was milking cows he would call dances sometimes for practice. I can see the cows chewing their cud now [laughter]. It was kind of comical. He knew all kinds of little ditties he used to entertain us kids all the time. He was quite a jokester, chase us around the house with a wire fly swatter and stuff like that. When he was an old man he would ride downhill. He had the old sled his father made him. He would ride down hill on that. So he was quite a character and he never took life too serious. He wasn’t like his father. His father was just the other way around very serious. In fact, he was kind of glad when my grandfather married my grandmother, she kind of simmered him down, settled him down. But it’s funny how it seems like every other generation is a little different?
No, there’s been a lot of changes. Everything you think about pretty much. All that generation, my grandparent’s generation, I mean, they were good with an ax, they were good with a scythe they could trim around with a scythe almost as good as a lawnmower. A lot of it was knowing how to sharpen the scythe and how to use it properly. My grandfather he hollered at me when I was a kid he said take a little bit. He didn’t like it when we chopped with a scythe. If you do it right you don’t get tired, you can cut for long periods of time. But he taught me a lot of the different things down on the farm especially when my mother wasn't there then he could do what he wanted to do.
JB:
Did your mother sometimes stop him from teaching certain things?
DP:
Yes, she didn’t like me using axes or things like that. When she wasn’t there we could do those things you see. She didn’t particularly like guns and my grandfather was, at one time, he did a lot of hunting and trapping so he talked about that a lot too. He actually made quite bit of money when he was younger trapping. Minks were six dollars and a muskrat was a dollar and a dollar was a day’s wages on the farm back at that time. The hired man got a dollar. He used to say to my grandfather, I work all day for a dollar and you catch a muskrat and make a dollar, but fur was real popular at that time for coats. I can still remember going to church and seeing people with mink collars. How often do you see that today? Not very often. Yeah, we would go to church and they would have their mink collars and in the summer they would have their fans. You see a lot of old fans in these old houses. One of the most fascinating things to me was going to auctions and seeing these different things that pop up at the farm auction. You always saw English transfer, there were always a few pieces of that mixed in, maybe just two or three pieces. Some of them would have chips and cracks in them then but you could always count on that. You would almost always see something that had to do with the flax business. You would always see some coined silver spoons at the auction, tea spoons, I mean, that type of stuff. The old timers, they were pretty fond of that, things that came down through the family.
And that’s one of the biggest changes that I have seen, people don’t seem to keep heirlooms like they used to. It amazes me when you see family photos. Sometimes family albums will be sold at the auction that would be marked. That amazes me to no end that people would get rid of family photos. And you always saw ancestor’s framed with walnut frames and plaster frames. Lots of times it would be old type frames, that was typical at auctions. You always saw drop leaf cherry tables. One drawer stands, you would see candle stands occasionally. All these cupboards, pine cupboards, always certain tools, always draw knives. Every auction would have a draw knife and maybe sometimes four. I went to one auction over here on Murphy hill where they probably had twenty-five. Then we used to see a lot of hop equipment at auctions, which I don’t see any more. I rarely see anything that is hop related. The typical farm had a cow barn, a horse barn, usually a granary, a chicken house, a hog pen, a corncrib, and usually a wooden silo. A lot of that stuff has disappeared really fast in the last 25-30 years especially. But the auctions were fascinating, I mean, I was fortunate enough that I was born at a time where I saw the family farms that had been in the family for 150 or more years. I saw them go to auction and I saw what was typical. I always wanted to make a collection of every typical type of tool that would have been on a farm but that grew into a more expansive collection then that.
JB:
For your collection, do you just focus on farming implements?
DP:
No
JB:
Have you expanded to the entire...?
DP:
I have always liked cooking tools. Hearth cooking items and early cook stove items as well, [Track 4, 0:00] most anything pertaining to the household. I particularly like eating utensils, different types of eating utensils, early forks, spoons, all kinds of two tine forks and that type of thing. Fireplace tongs I have collected for a good many years, a lot of peels, some fire shovels, and irons. I’ve tried to devote my collecting to things that have some kind of history or ties to certain families. My collections are a little different than most collections, it’s kept together by where it came from. I feel that’s important, I don’t document things probably as good as I ought to. And when it comes to ephemera I don’t have the funds to collect a lot of that at this point. I don’t have the means to buy acid free folders those things cost lots of money. I always say you can collect the artifact or you can collect the container to put them in. I focus my collecting on the artifact. Someday someone else can worry about how it is kept. You can only do so much. But I used to copy an awful lot of photographs. I don’t do so much now as I get older. I don’t see the significance in it that I once saw. Just this last Thursday there was a fabulous collection of stereoptical views that pertained to Otsego County. But that stuff has gotten to the point that it goes so high now at auctions I can’t do it. I think that NYSHA should play a more active role in that. That’s something I stressed a good many years to them, to different people.
JB:
You used to work with NYSHA and help with their collection.
DP:
I was on the advisory board at the Farmers Museum.
JB:
What did you do with the advisory board?
DP:
We met two or three times was all. I think it was more of a figurehead thing than anything else. I think it’s good that we have an advisory board. I am giving you an honest answer. I worked with Gibb [Vincent] on the Marble barn. I actually did the initial talking with Sherman on the marble barn and also on the hop kiln. I always thought the marble barn was a significant building but I don’t think it is a particularly typical building. I think it has a little bit of Dutch influence; it is kind of an unusual barn. I was trying to get Gibb to get more typical things at the time. I like it being here. I like it being saved. But like I say the typical three-bay barn would not be that. It’s an unusual barn and the log barn today is unusual but, I think log barns were much more common than we realize. I talked to a guy and he still alive, his name is Virgil Zinninger, he remembered several log barns over in the Evanston-Burlington area and he is the only person that I talked to that ever remembered seeing any others, other than the one in the museum and that came from the Brooks farm, the log barn that’s here. Who are related to me also. Where that barn came from was a very unusual house. It’s a plank, it’s part of a house I should say, it is a plank construction building but the planks run horizontally, dovetailed on the ends. That’s the only one of those I have ever seen. We have some unusual architecture. There is another house over west of Hartwick where they laid four inch boards one on top of the other stacked them up and then clapboarded over that. I have never seen that either before. So every once in a while you know, you kind of draw a conclusion that this is a typical type of construction, that looks typical but you find out there, is always something that is a little bit different. It is hard to come to conclusions sometimes and I think that is a mistake that we all make in the early stages. You say, oo look at that, you think you have the answers but you really don’t know and there’s so much we don’t know, that makes it very interesting. You never get bored studying historic things.
I bought a little tureen, a little bigger than a sugar bowl, the other day, English transfer. I had never seen the form before in my life, very unusual form. And I always look at that stuff. It has a couple of dings in it but the form is so intriguing that I purchased it. I can show you a few more pictures. There’s another neighborhood schoolhouse that’s called the Chase schoolhouse. The entranceway is kind of unusual on that, once in a while you will see them where the door is on the side usually they are on the end. This has a transom this could be a very early one to.
JB:
Where was this one?
DP:
Well, it’s not far from my house. These schools were laid out. Jedediah Peck and one of the Drapers laid out the school system in this state maybe in this country I don’t know but they were so far apart. You could almost put a compass on a school and put a circle around it and touch another one. They were pretty systematic so this one was probably two miles from my schoolhouse. And that was in Bissell Hollow which later became Chase and they had a post office there because the electric trolley line came through there. So they named it Chase, the post office, then Bissell Hollow got dropped through the years. But that one just fell into the ground and rotted away. But it looks like the roof had a pretty good start there already didn’t it. Right near that was a wonderful stone arch bridge and that’s how Christian Hill got its name. That was the second church, the first one was a stone church. You can see the boot scrapers there. I have one of those.
JB:
This looks almost like a clapboard church.
DP:
That was a clapboard. The old original stone church was across the road. I wonder if the steeple was added after. See the difference in the shingles.
JB:
Yes, it almost looks like there should be almost a fourth window on the side because there is that gap.
DP:
There probably was an entry room. That building was taken down and made into a carriage house and they consolidated with the Hartwick Christian church. There’s a hop yard there which I think is kind of contradictory, thing isn’t it.
JB:
You mentioned early that if more people thought about where the hops went they might not have grown it as often.
DP:
That’s true, that’s my feeling.
JB:
Did you find any evidence of a giant temperance movement in the region?
DP:
No, they had that later on you know. I never got into that part that much. Pretty limited on my knowledge of that. There’s probably other people who would know more about that. There used to be a blacksmith’s shop over behind here but they took the foundation from this and the stone church and built a barn up the road and the old guy’s name was John Hackley and he said, I ought to have a good barn, I’ve got the foundations out of two churches, and ten years later somebody arsoned the barn.
JB:
Oh no. You mention these people in the community. Did you seek them out to talk them about the history of their buildings and their family history?
DP:
Yes, I was always interested in that. There was a neighbor, his name was Gerald Bush who lived where that barn burnt his family was the Hackley family. His mother was a Hackly and he very knowledgeable on local history and I used to spend a lot of time with him. In the morning he would cook pancakes, the house would be all smoked up with pancakes. He kept it about 60 degrees in there. It was cold but he was extremely knowledgeable. He knew a lot of local history.
JB:
Has there ever been a local history club or association?
DP:
Well, there was the Otsego County Historical Society which consolidated with NYSHA. So that was early, when NYSHA came to Cooperstown that’s when the consolidation took place so they kind of swallowed up the historical society and then we formed a historical association which is pretty limited to what they can do financially but NYSHA had a pretty good collection. I mean, some of the Cooper family was in on that. I don’t know if there’s documentation on that at this point or not but then there are little historical societies, Hartwick has one, Fly creek.
JB:
Did you meet people you talk to in those historical societies?
DP:
A lot of those historical societies I have been active in them to some degree. How do I put this? I was always drawn to people on a one on one basis more. They wanted to have more entertainment where people got together for refreshments and that. I was more detailed. Some of the speakers were good and what have you but I like to go look at artifacts on site. That’s one thing about auctions that I dislike today. There used to be a lot of onsite auctions so that what was sold there and came from the farm. Farm people for the most part weren’t collectors [they] didn’t go to other farms and buy stuff what was there was there. Which is no longer the case. Today that circumstance is extremely rare. There are a few around the county yet. I always thought on site was one of the best ways to study, the most true. I guess that if I was going to say anything to NYSHA or The Farmers’ Museum I think the graduate program, I think one of the best things they could do is study on site. Down the road there is going to be very little you can see intact. There is still some, still quite a bit. I mean I would guess 50 % of what I remember as a child is pretty well gone today but there is still stuff there. And it’s exciting, I mean, one of the most exciting experiences I can remember as a child is going into this attic when I was a kid.
JB:
Over the summer kitchen?
DP:
Over the kitchen, no that was over the regular kitchen. Well there was a summer kitchen in the back on the flat part. But I remember my dad going in with my grandmother. She wouldn’t let me into the attic when I was a kid, until I started tapping trees. Then I went up and got buckets and was intrigued there was some pretty neat stuff there. But she and my father went in there one night to clean the chimney and I went in there and I remember a flyer from a flax wheel hanging with two loom pulleys and I asked my grandmother if I could have them and she said I could and then later on I found the spinning wheel buried behind some other stuff in the attic. Which was probably made in Fly Creek, can’t prove it that but these certain turnings, on these certain types of spinning wheels keep turning up around here and that was one of the most fascinating experiences I have ever had. I remember going and I got really excited. There was everything in there.
She was a wall paper hanger so one wall was piled with paper so you couldn’t see what was behind that and she made rag carpets and there were bags and bags from, that it was a fire trap. Bags and bags of rags, and they were old feed bags that were cloth bags. Just seeing those things in place not having been moved in one hundred plus years was fascinating to me, and when I have gone to auctions, I have seen things come out of attics that haven’t seen the light of day for decades. I don’t know what there is about it but it just excites me. I mean, I don’t see so much of it as I used to but every once in a while I pick up something like that when I know the whole background of the family. And if I buy something from a place, I usually research that place that farm and background. That’s why it is necessary for me to have a fairly good local library. I mean, I have the maps and different things like that and I use them all the time. My atlases are tattered and torn and my histories are tattered and torn and there are notes all through them. But some of the families are really intriguing when you get into them.
JB:
Well, thank you so much for your time. We have been talking for close for two hours now. So we’ll have to take a bit of a break but that you so much for speaking with me today I really appreciate it. This has been fascinating.



Duration

01:29
29:59- Part 1
30:00- Part 2
30:00- Part 3
16:09- Part 4

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps

Files

Collection

Citation

Julie Broadbent, “David Petri, November 14, 2010,” CGP Community Stories, accessed October 17, 2018, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/85.