Chapter  9

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Chapter 9  -  Religion, Social Life and Play 

How did the early Davenport folk socialize?  What was their church life like?  What were their religious and social institutions over the past 180 years or so?  How did they find wives and husbands?  How did they entertain themselves?  How did they play?  The full answers to these questions would take many pages.  We will try to cover at least the beginnings in the current chapter.  (See also Chapters 11 and 13.)

Methodist circuit riders.[1] Beginning soon after the American Revolution, traveling preachers called “circuit riders” were called upon by English Methodist Philip Asbury to “penetrate the country north of the city of New-York.”  There had been very extensive religious revivals in 1788, and “a great portion of this country was entirely destitute of religious instruction, more especially the northern and western parts of New-York state…”[2]

The Rev. A. B. Chaffee provides in his “History of the Wyoming Conference” the earliest record of organized religion in Davenport. Two pastors, Robert Dillon and David Buck, were appointed to the Delaware Circuit in 1794.[3]  The Circuit included what later became Davenport Center.  These first circuit riders were not broadly educated preachers.  Since they spent so much of their time on horseback or on foot, they had little access to reading materials other than their own Bibles.  They communed with nature and understood the simple life of tiny settlements.  With as many as ten parishes to serve, they moved continually, staying with a family here or finding inadequate housing elsewhere.

Later circuit riders were better educated and conducted “Sunday Schools” for young and old alike.  They might carry with them small books “of a high moral standard,” lending them out and exchanging them for others on their next visit—an early circulating library system.  The Sunday School of the Methodist Church in Fergusonville established its own book purchasing and lending system, primarily of “Tract Books” published by the American Bible Society.  Its collection eventually numbered in the hundreds.[4]

 In 1834, the Charlotte Circuit began as a branch of the Delaware Circuit.  The Charlotte Circuit included Charlotteville, Russ Hill, Dugway, South Worcester, Fergusonville, East Davenport, Davenport Center, Briar Street (East Meredith; also in some documents and histories spelled “Brier” Street.), West Davenport and the Hemlocks (near today’s Emmons).  It is easy to see that a service could not be held in each community every Sunday.

In those early days of Methodism, the organizations were called Methodist Societies, and the men who came over from England were recent converts to the preaching of John and Charles Wesley.  One of the earliest was Reverend Philip Embury, a tradesman, who arrived in 1766 and helped form the Methodist Society of New York.[5]

Many lay preachers from the Church of England[6] rode the circuit, preaching in the open, in kitchens, in barns, in schools.  The preachers in Davenport Center endured other hardships beside travel:


When Olaf G. Hedstrom was appointed to our circuit in 1835 he made his home in a building which had been used as a wood-house and wash-shed.  When he moved into the building, it was without furniture save an old cracked stove.  The preacher had no money with which to build; he therefore took some rough boards, and sticks from the wood pile, and made a table, a bedstead, a cupboard and a few benches for seats.  When the work was done he knelt and thanked God that he was in possession of so comfortable a home.  (Chaffee, 1904, 702.)

Reverend Elbert Osborn writes in his Memoirs that while he was servicing the Bloomville group on the Delaware Circuit in 1833, he was told of dissatisfaction in Davenport Center.  Revival meetings in Bloomville were held so often and with such a demand on Rev. Osborn’s time that he neglected Davenport Center.  He met with the unhappy parishioners and arranged for an extra meeting on June 25, 1833.  The day was rainy, but Rev. Osborn rode through the downpour to the barn where the meeting was to be held.  No one was there, not one soul.  He went to the schoolhouse where one person had arrived and had a quiet meeting with Obediah Munger.[7]

 Rev. Osborn then requested assistance from Rev. John S. Bangs, a large man and blacksmith by trade.  Rev. Bangs was a resident of the Betty’s Brook neighborhood of Kortright[8] and a persuasive speaker who helped conduct meetings in Davenport as well as camp meetings in nearby communities.  His circuit “reached over two hundred miles in either direction… He was not afraid to grapple with what he thought to be sin wherever he found it.”[9]  “I formed three societies while a local preacher,” he wrote in his autobiography.  Two of them are yet in existence—a very important one in Davenport Center and the other in Harpersfield.”[10]  A church was soon built in Davenport Center, in 1834, at a cost of $3,000.

Noted revivalists have visited the territory.  The weekly prayer meeting and annual revival were common practices.  In 1844 and 1845, at revival meetings in West Davenport, there were over 100 conversions.  At Fergusonville about the same time every family but one was reached.

In 1853 the circuits were again split and the Davenport Circuit was formed.  It included Emmons, West Davenport, Prosser Hollow, Davenport Center, Briar Street, East Davenport, South Hill, Fergusonville, Maryland Hill, and South Worcester.  As these little settlements grew in size, the circuit was divided again in 1862.  The places beyond East Davenport—Maryland Hill, Fergusonville and South Worcester—became the Fergusonville Circuit; the others remained in the Davenport Circuit. 

It was in the newly formed Methodist Church of West Davenport about 1856 that Phineas Bresee experienced the “conversion” that led him on the road to forming the Church of the Nazarene.  (See sidebar later in this chapter for more of this story.)



That old time religion.  The first Davenport townsfolk appear to have taken their religion most seriously.  One gets such a feeling—and more—from reading the Davenport historical sketch by the Rev. Nathaniel Sumner and Mr. R. D. Miller, written for Munsell’s 1880 “History of Delaware County,” page 145.  Their story deals mostly with Congregationalism in Davenport, its beginning—and ending.  The account is full of controversy and even lawsuits over the church’s morals.  Could religious life for twenty years really have been so tense and humorless?

John Davenport, as mentioned in Chapter 8, had left money in his will for a Congregational Meeting House in Davenport.  In 1830 the First Congregational Society of Davenport began to build on land donated by Ira Metcalf and his wife.  The church burned down (according to Sumner and Miller) before completion.  Threatened with a lawsuit by the heirs to regain the initial $500, the church members raised even more funds and rebuilt, completing the church in 1832.[11]  The new difficulty was that the Congregationalists now had a church but no ordained preacher.  What then happened?  The Methodists had no place of worship, but this sect did not require an ordained minister and were allowed to use the Congregationalist’s building.[12]  In the tongue-in-cheek words of Mr. Miller and Rev. Sumner, “the Methodists, who could all preach, went in [to John Davenport’s church] and had a long meeting.”  The Methodists, in fact, seem to have largely taken over that church, at least for the time being.

This was a time of religious ferment in which, the Miller and Summer account continues, “protracted meetings spread like wildfire over the country.”  “Protracted” in this case meant exactly that—long, long, long.  Nicholas Sigsbee tells of Rev. Littlejohn’s protracted revival meeting in Oneonta.  “It lasted fifteen days—twelve week days and three Sundays.”[13]  The Congregationalists adopted “the Arminian[14] method of making special religious efforts” and then “voted the converts into their communion daily as fast as they were converted.”  By 1831 the new Society had thirty members.  “George Ten Eick and his wife were among that number, and soon ceased to be landlord and landlady of the old [liquor-serving and otherwise sinful] tavern.”

An anti-fundamentalist reaction followed.  Money flowed in from the new Charlotte Turnpike, and the “young female church members joined the ploughboys in having balls nearly every Friday night.”  The church records then fell silent for ten years. “A parsonage was built, and a Rev. Mr. Redfield occupied it one year without much effect.”  The church situation was then complicated by emerging competition between two Goodrich families.  “Joseph Goodrich’s daughters married Yankee and his brother’s [Seth’s] daughters Dutch husbands.  Each family commenced the building of a store and a tavern in the village on the bank.”  Ah, what exciting times those were.

The clash in the Congregational Church between strictness and social laxity continued and was made worse in 1841 when, in the somewhat acerbic words of Mr. Miller and Rev. Sumner (could Nathaniel Sumner perhaps have been a Methodist?[15]), the Congregationalists found “a miserable dyspeptic” and “set him to preaching.”  [This was a Rev. Smith, and the building was that begun by John Davenport.]


He proved to be a student of high literary honors.  He undertook to reform the church.  The girls were neither willing to be turned out of the church nor out of the ballroom.  They [the anti-reformers] could not get him to say that the sin of balls consisted in dancing.  They [the anti-reformers] sent their leading gallant a hundred miles to bring proof that the clergyman had married a dancer who believed in balls.  Finally, the most willful of them was excommunicated, and she joined the Methodists.  The next generation of youth attended the weekly prayer meeting at the parsonage.  Then it was noised abroad that many of them had been several weeks in the enjoyment of religion.  (Munsell, 1880, 145.)

The key to understanding this quotation’s last sentence seems to be the word “enjoyment.”   Perhaps religion was not to be enjoyed or perhaps there were dark suspicions of other kinds of enjoyment at those weekly prayer meetings.  In any case the Methodist wife of one of the Congregationalist members blew the whistle, demanding a “protracted meeting” on the matter, in the Congregational Church but with her pastor, the Methodist minister, running the show.  The anti-reformists, however, were thoroughly rebuffed, and the “youth and others” rushed to join the un-un-reformed church.  “At the close of four year’s labor” the Congregational Church, in 1845, had “sixty members in good and regular standing.”

Such success, and undoubtedly the accompanying suspicion of moral turpitude, was the last straw: 


The gallant Z. E. Goodrich [ Zebulon, son of Joseph Goodrich whose “daughters married Yankee.”] threatened that he would bring an end of that church… Its downfall commenced immediately.  Not one church in a thousand, so large, ever perishes in so short a time.  Abraham Becker[16] bought of Thomas Patten a debt against the society, nearly paid up and outlawed. A suit in the Supreme Court was so managed to bring a very heavy judgement.  The trustees had to sell the parsonage to pay it.  A Mr. Ellis bought his own house in the village and became the preacher.  He died suddenly at the end of a year, in the summer of 1847.  Rev. E. Holmes took his place.  He was tried by a council in 1850, and came very near being deposed.  He was the last Congregational preacher.  (Munsell, 1889, 145.) 

Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, and Catholics.  The United Presbyterians, sometimes “Scotch Presbyterians,” moved into Davenport village’s former Congregational Church during 1859, but James M. Smeallie from the North Kortright Church is credited with organizing the United Presbyterian Church of Davenport in 1867.  The first pastor was Robert Stewart who served four years and left to become professor of theology in a seminary at Newburg and later a missionary and theology professor in India.  The church still stands at the beginning of the 21st century, on the north side of Route 23.

Meanwhile, the Methodists in Davenport had grown in numbers and soon became the largest denomination in town.  Meetings in homes and borrowed premises were followed by well-attended tent revivals.  With the arrival of the Charlotte Turnpike had come new inhabitants and prosperity.  Davenport Center, where the turnpike crossed the Charlotte River, soon became, in 1834 as noted above, the home of Davenport’s first Methodist Society on land donated by Ezekiel Miller and his wife.  (Ezekiel Miller, a large land and mill owner, also donated a plot for the Davenport Center parsonage.)

Church Bells, Cork-screw Curls,

Stiffly Starched Linen, and Shivers

The Methodists in the hamlet of Davenport and further east had long met in the old Congregational Church and elsewhere.  In 1836 they erected their own building in Fergusonville on land deeded by Garrit Burtis and his wife to the Second Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church of Davenport.  Ezekiel Miller was one of the first trustees of this church.  This Fergusonville church later became a focus and selling point for the new Charlotte (later Fergusonville) Academy.  A West Davenport Methodist Church was built on land donated in 1852 by Mrs. E.B. (Anna) Fero. 

The Methodists seemed to dominate Davenport’s religious life in the 1850s with three churches built (in Fergusonville, Davenport Center, and West Davenport) and a fourth assemblage meeting in the former Congregationalist Church.    The number was unchanged until 1859 or so when those still meeting in the hamlet of Davenport were displaced by the Presbyterians arriving from North Kortright.  They then traveled to Fergusonville for services but in 1878 decided to build their own church in the Davenport village.

Meanwhile, in 1870 Cornelius Miller, a Baptist Church trustee, and his wife provided land in West Davenport for a second church in that community, that of the Free Will Baptists.  The West Davenport Baptist Church had been organized ten years earlier, in December 1860, under the Reverend E.C. Hodge from East Meredith.  Ira W. Fero was Clerk Pro Tem. and Samuel Kenyon was elected Deacon.  Meetings and services were held in members’ homes.  Baptism was by immersion in Charlotte Creek.   

“The Personal Conduct of Church Members and Officials Was Closely Watched…”

How could the hamlet of West Davenport support two Protestant churches?  “All through the years in this small community the [two] churches had difficulty in raising enough money to pay a pastor.  The ministers only stayed a short time and moved on to richer churches.  As in most small churches the church had to have semi-retired, shared, student or part time ministers… Sometimes we barely managed to continue.  Church membership got down to 20 in the early nineteen thirties.”[17]

 It was not until 1883 that the Methodists built their own church in Davenport village proper on land deeded by Alexander Shellman across the turnpike from the Presbyterian Church.  Chaplain McCabe and Rev. Lucius King dedicated the town’s newest church on February 1, 1884.  The church, today moved further back on the same lot and augmented by new additions, was Gothic in style, with a full basement for social activities.  Its bell weighed one thousand and seventy pounds.[18]  The building was repaired and improved between 1892 and 1960 before being moved and expanded in the late 1970s.  (See the section in the previous chapter on doctors and health.)  In 1895, a parsonage, the second house west of the United Presbyterian Church, was purchased for $2,000.  The Methodist parsonage in Fergusonville had not been used for many years and by 1895 had been sold.  (A far more complete account of Davenport’s four Methodist churches, as noted above, is found in Mary S. Briggs, 1983.)



In East Meredith (no longer Briar Street), an old log Baptist church was used until 1894.  Then in front of that church the present Presbyterian Church was built.  This was an offshoot of the parent church, the Gilchrist Memorial Church of Kortright (at that time the United Presbyterian Church of Kortright), about seven and a half miles to the west.[19]

The Roman Catholic Church was the last denomination to arrive in the Town of

Davenport.  After the Methodist Society of Davenport Center had built their church in 1834, regular meetings were held in the new building for one hundred and thirty-one years.  (Until 1834, Methodist meetings in Davenport Center had been held in the school, in homes, or under the stars.)  In 1965 the Davenport Center Methodist Church merged with the Davenport United Methodist Church.  For the next four years the Davenport Center church remained closed.

Meanwhile a group of Catholic families in 1960 bought the old O’Connor/Douglass house in Davenport village, converting it into a religious center serving a larger congregation.  It was used for services until 1969 when the Catholics purchased the Davenport Center Methodist Church.  This building was rededicated as Saint Theresa’s Chapel and remained in use, serving about 90 families for the next thirty years. The Roman Catholics then succumbed to the familiar small, rural church malady, a shortage of funds and pastors.  The chapel closed in April 1999, with segments of the congregation transferring to Stamford, Delhi and Oneonta.  Bonds among the former parishioners nevertheless remained strong, and about twenty-five continued to meet monthly to maintain their contacts.[20]

After the Congregationalist lesson.  The years following the collapse of the Congregationalists were ones of greater calm and less conflict among Davenport’s churches.  There continued to be, however, ongoing issues between some churchgoers and Davenport’s less religious brethren.  The Rev. Edward White wrote of such an occasion during the winter of 1844-5 when a ball in a Davenport hotel was scheduled for the same evening as a Methodist prayer meeting in a nearby church.  One intent of the ball, it was believed, was to disrupt the prayer meeting, but on this occasion prayers prevailed:


Rev. A. C. Fields was then circuit preacher, and he suggested that prayer should specially be made for the rioters and dancers who had already gathered at the hotel.  This was done; the prayer of faith was offered and ere long its effect was manifest, for long before midnight the ballroom was vacant, and the persons who had proposed to break up the services were in the church, crying loudly for mercy at the anxious seat.  Many who had intended to spend the night in dancing spent it in praying.  The meeting continued without any decrease in interest or power until morning, and before dawn members were converted and saved.  In the extensive revival that followed, the church had a large increase in numbers, power and influence.  (From Briggs, 1983, p. 8.) 

It is not known if this incident was exacerbated by the Fugine Society, organized in 1843, as “anti-church and free-love.”  Davenport was also the home to other secret societies, usually with fewer or no anti-religious aims.  The “Know Nothing” political and nativist fundamentalists for a while had a branch in Davenport.  “During the rage for an American party[21] there was a dark-lantern lodge that claimed to Know Nothing about it.”[22]  Other fraternal organizations in Davenport included at one time a lodge of the Maccabees and, the last to exist, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), the Rebekahs, and the Grange. 



For a brief time, probably in the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan reportedly held meetings in the basement of the church in East Meredith.  Bob Chambers in 2003 (then age 89) remembered “20 or more” members coming into the West Davenport Methodist Church one night, dressed in their robes and hats, when he was “only a kid” (late 1920s or early 1930s).  “Perry Dimmick was the leader of the K.K.K., and they did burn a cross at the top of the Pine Lake Road [at Pine Lake].  They also burned one above the Ham farm.”[23]  Clan members also held meetings in circular clearings in the woods.  Years later, Sally Beams “found one clearing near [her] home in East Meredith, with candles in cans nailed to the trees.”[24]

The Davenport Beginnings of the Church of the Nazarene

The IOOF and the Rebekahs.  Many fraternal organizations were short-lived, but the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and its sister lodge, the Rebekahs, existed for much of the twentieth century.  This active community of moral men and women held to their motto of “friendship, love and truth.”  The members were admonished to visit the sick, relieve the destitute, bury the dead, and educate the orphan.  They also lobbied for laws to promote better care for the aged and infirm.  The New York State IOOF maintained homes for the elderly in Ithaca, Lockport, and New York City.  The last to close was that in Ithaca when, in 1978, it could no longer meet the demands of the local health department.

The Davenport lodge of the IOOF, Number 96, was organized October 1, 1901.[30]  Meetings were held in Moran’s Hall, formerly the Clarendon Hotel on the site of what by 2000 had become the Quickway in Davenport village.  Later members included Ralph Taber, I.B. Pierce, John Adams, Funeral Director J. D. Hall, Richard Porter, Leslie Wade, and Arthur Hillis.  Most were from Davenport, but East Meredith residents Charles Haynes and his father, Jesse, joined later.  Eventually an active, expanding group outgrew Moran’s Hall and purchased the school house on Main Street (relocated after 1914 when the Union Free School was built), renaming it I.O.O.F. Hall.

Rebekah Lodge #393 might have been formed prior to the 1920s, but earlier records have not been preserved.  This lodge, with its large and active membership of local women and some husbands, remained in the public eye for more than seventy years.  Finally, after 1979, with an aging membership and with few new and younger members, the lodge became inactive.  Its charter was surrendered about two decades later.[31]  (See photo.) 



The Freemasons.  The Free and Accepted Masons (F. and A. M.; also Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, A.F. and A.M.) in the late 20th century, at six million members, was reportedly the largest secret society in the world.  Traditionally “liberal and democratic,” the Masonic ideal incorporated  “religious toleration, loyalty to local government, and political compromise.”[32]  Freemasonry followed the English, Scotch and Irish to America, one of the first lodges being formed as early as 1730 in Georgia (by Lord Weymouth) and in Philadelphia.[33][34]  Early Free Masons in the United States included Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Hancock, Paul Revere and many of the Revolutionary generation.  Thirteen U.S. presidents have been Masons.[35]

 The Grand Lodge of New York State was instituted in 1781 under a warrant from the Grand Lodge of England, but Freemasonry had already existed in the state for about fifty years.  The oldest State Lodge was in New York City, and outside of the city the oldest was in Albany (1759).[36]  From this Grand Lodge all state sub-lodges derived their charters.  By 1816 there were 858 lodges in the United States.  New York alone has 301.  Nine lodges existed in Delaware County as early as 1815.  These included, among others, chapters in Stamford (1794), Kortright (1802), Harpersfield (1813), Meredith (1813) and Franklin (1815).[37]

 The Charlotte River Lodge of Davenport was organized November 28, 1865.  Dr. John Ferguson was the first Worshipful Master, V.D. Perry, the Senior Warden, and A.H. Tyler, the Junior Warden.  Serving later for one year or more as Master of the Lodge were V.D. Becker, S.A. Warner, William (Uncle Billy) McDonald, Thomas Douglass, A.H. Tyler, and C.G. Burrell. 

The Freemasonry movement, in company with the later I.O.O.F, Granges and other grass-roots fraternal organizations, attracted some of the most respected and prominent men of Davenport and other communities.  It emphasized good works and respect for the law and religion.  In New York State today, Freemasonry boasts of being “the oldest and largest fraternal organization in the world.”  The Masons “donate over $1.5 million a day to support charities in the United States.”  The organization is open to all men of goodwill who believe in “a supreme being of their choice, in upholding the laws of the land, in helping each other, in improving their communities, and in the brotherhood of mankind.”[38]

 Nevertheless, because of its liberal religious attitudes and secret rituals, Freemasonry has had a troubled and controversial past.  It has been attacked by conservative Protestant groups and Catholics alike.  Catholics are banned from joining the group, and Freemasonry has been outlawed by most authoritarian regimes.

Davenport churches generally opposed the secretive Masonic Lodge, but the Free Masons in Davenport did not give rise to as much commotion as in nearby Harpersfield.  (See sidebar.)  The one incident in Davenport occurred years later in the Presbyterian Church where members were strictly forbidden to join secret societies.  In an 1871 trial, the Church found Ebenezer Harkness guilty of violating the rules by willfully joining the Masons.  He was suspended from church membership until 1875 when he came before the Session once more, admitted his error, quit the lodge, and was reinstated in the church.[39]

Possibly in part as a result of conflict with the local churches, the Masonic Charlotte River Lodge disbanded during the fall of 1877.

But George Washington Was a Mason…

The many roles of the church.  What was the full role of the Church?  Interviews with older residents have revealed many other aspects besides religion.  Life for many, in fact, revolved around the church.  Whole families, from infants to the aged, attended all services.  It was certainly a place for a family to renew its faith, but it was also a social center.  After the service, at least in the early 1900s, a family would often bring a covered dish and table service to spend the dinner hour enjoying the social contacts with friends and a neighbor’s special dish.  The brotherhood of man flourished in many ways under the roof of the church.

Weather permitting, in addition to two meetings on Sunday a mid-week prayer service was held.   Annual revival meetings complemented the weekly services.  These often extended meetings (one in Davenport village in 1916 is known to have lasted three weeks) attracted the eager and the curious.  Over the years many converts were made.

More formal church suppers, provided by the church itself, began in the late 1850s.  Most were sponsored by Ladies Aid Societies.  It was hard work for the women involved, but a good way to raise money for a specific need. The churches over the years have sponsored many social events, some to earn money for necessary building repairs, etc., and others purely social.  Oyster suppers were once well-attended fund-raisers.  The oysters were served in many ways: on the half shell, in stew, and as scalloped oysters.  These were one of the most popular dinners until the price of oysters, shipped in barrels from the seacoast, made the meals prohibitive.[40]

Summer clambakes were another popular church event.  Baked potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, and chicken usually accompanied the steamed clams.  Men and boys played baseball, and three-legged races and relay races were run.



For a number of years, chicken pie suppers or “penny suppers” were popular.  The ladies of the village were solicited for a chicken pie, Jell-O, salad, or cake.  Then, in a private home, tables were set up in every nook and cranny.  The idea was to pay a penny for each dish from which you took food—including butter, milk, bread, sugar, coffee, salt and pepper.  Another variant was to contribute a penny for every inch of a person’s height. There was a penny supper at the home of Lavern Shaver where the guest contributed a penny (or more) in a dish whenever he or she scooped up one serving.

In modern times the Presbyterian Church has been noteworthy for its strawberry festivals; the Methodist Church, for its hand-made candy Easter eggs—upwards of 4000 sold annually.



Some would hold that today’s Strawberry Festival is but a pale imitation of the former Strawberry Socials based on wild strawberries when every ice-cream freezer in town would be in use.  There was never a shortage of people-power to turn the crank (and later lick the dasher).  The Ladies’ Aid Society would launch its annual event in June, the season of ripe berries:


The wild strawberries were found in huge patches, growing deep in the unmown grass of the fields in early to mid-June.  It took hundreds of stems to fill a pail.  Oh, the small size of them compared to the fat berries bought in the store today!  And the backbreaking labor to pick them, and the staying up half the night removing stems.  Mom taught us to pick them on the stem.  That way they were more protected in the pail and would not get smushy.  Once you took the haulms [stems] off, they had an open juicy area.  Besides baking those wonderful strawberry shortcakes and pies, Mom canned quarts of them.  When she took us picking, she carried two 12-quart pails.  She was known to fill the pails, her sunbonnet, and then a pouch made from her apron.  My brother and I well remember questioning whether we could ever go home.  A public strawberry festival would take a lot of pickin’.  (Bernice Graham Telian, personal communication, June 2003.)

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was closely allied with organized religion.  Responding to the widespread overindulgence in alcohol and the perceived lack of sobriety on the part of the new immigrant class, the WCTU was for many years a potent force for improved morality and enforced temperance.

Alcohol had of course been consumed throughout history in one form or another.  Explorers as well as sea captains stocked copious quantities in their larders before their adventures.  Wine, whiskey and rum ran rampart in the early rural towns of America.   The U.S. Navy provided liquor rations to seamen, and during the Civil War the Army reinstated such rations to its troops.  It was also common at the time for employers to provide daily liquor allotments to their workmen.[41] 

Alcohol consumption in Davenport had been for some residents a long-standing issue.  We have seen above how tavern ownership—of which there were more than a few in town—was considered incompatible in the early 1800s with Congregationalist Church membership.  Noted, too, has been the convenience of converting surplus grain into whiskey and the widespread production and consumption of alcoholic beverages, both whiskey and hard cider.  In the year 1810, spirits were distilled in all but seven of New York’s 47 counties.  Delaware County alone had eleven distilleries, producing 19,500 gallons, almost a gallon for every man, woman and child in the county.[42][43]

 Increasing public drunkenness and related employment issues led to growing public concerns.  In 1808 a temperance group arose in Saratoga, New York.[44]  A “society for reformed drunkards” created widespread lodges, and as “early as 1851 the temperance forces had established prohibition in Maine and had won minor victories in other states.”[45]  It was a time when many men, women and children consumed enormous amounts of liquor every day.  Laborers were believed to be especially heavy drinkers.[46]  The liquor business increased greatly during and after the Civil War, and pressure grew for outright prohibition.

The Empire of King Alcohol

Gerrit Smith, son of Peter Smith and heir to the Charlotte River Patent, became an abolitionist and helped form abstinence clubs.[47]  At the time of the Munsell history, Davenport had two temperance lodges claiming a total membership of 70.  One was the Helping Hand Lodge, No. 869, I.O. of G.T. (Independent Order of Good Templars) in Davenport Center and the second, the West Davenport Lodge, No. 892, I.O. of G.T.  The Rev. B.K. Douglas, G.D.D, formed both, apparently after the Civil War.  Mr. R.D. Miller, one of the two Davenport contributors to the Munsell volume, served as the first formal leader of the Davenport Center lodge.[48][49]

 The earliest temperance societies were generally restricted to adult males, though the Good Templars and the Order of Good Samaritans admitted some women in the 1850s.[50]   After the Civil War, women-run organizations played an increasingly important role.  In 1874 the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was founded in Ohio and given forceful direction for many years (1879-98) by its second president, Francis Willard.[51]  Its aim was to educate the public about the physiological effects of alcohol at just the time when beer consumption was increasing along with foreign immigration and when the New York State wine industry was enjoying a period of growth.  (New York champagne had won its first gold medal at the Vienna Exposition in 1873.[52])  The WCTU under Francis Willard also embraced women’s suffrage, prison reform, and protection for abused children.[53]

 At this time, women in nearly every hamlet were searching for a means to make a difference in the political arena by influencing legislation favorable to women.  On December 15, 1884, a WCTU branch was organized in West Davenport and Davenport Center.  Ten of its 45 members were men (though the men were not allowed to vote).  Mrs. J. Burdick was elected president and Dr. Gertrude Maharg Peck and Mrs. W.W. Morell, vice presidents.  Other officers included Mrs. R.S. Hebbard (corresponding secretary), Mrs. C.D. Morrell (recording secretary), Mrs. J.G. Lockwood (treasurer), Miss Jennie McLaurie (superintendent of juvenile work), and Mrs. S.A. Morthrun (superintendent of temperance).[54]

The following year, another WCTU unit was organized in the hamlet of Davenport of equal size and importance.  East Meredith also had its own branch.



One factor which may have been related to the 1884 formation of the Davenport Center WCTU was a suit brought the previous year against tavern owner William W. Brownell (Union Hotel, Brownell Hotel).  The action was filed under the civil damage act by Mrs. Robert Graig, “alleging that she has been deprived of her means of support by reason of Brownell having sold her husband liquors…”  These liquors caused “him to become an habitual drunkard, dissolute, and worthless.”[55]  Strong stuff, that liquor.  An arrest order was also presented, but Mr. Brownell promptly made bail, thereby gaining release from “durance vile.”  Mr. Brownell died five years later at the youthful age of 37. It is not known how the suit turned out.

In the same year of 1884, the WCTU successfully campaigned for a New York State law requiring temperance instruction in public schools, but it was not until January 1920, following the constitutional amendment of 1919, that outright prohibition came into effect.  On the local scene, WCTU members handed out pledges of abstinence for signatures.  They marched in parades.  They tried to close down dances by holding hymn-sings.  They counseled women and children about the dangers of alcohol.

One of Davenport’s most active members was Dr. Gertrude Peck.  She was the daughter of Davenport Center’s Dr. Samuel Maharg (See Chapters 5 and 8), a vice president of that community’s first WCTU organization, and a granddaughter of Davenport’s Hosea Reynolds.  A young lady herself, she helped persuade many other Davenport young women of the benefits of abstinence.

Family organization.  The family and the church formed the nub of life.  The father in most cases was the undisputed head of the family unit.  He either trained the male members of his household or, at the age of ten or eleven, apprenticed them to craftsmen or farmers.  Every individual carried his or her proportionate share of responsibility.  Girls were taught by their mothers to be economical wives, skilled in many areas.  Even through the first quarter of the 20th century, schooling for a girl was actively resisted.  College for a member of the female sex was considered a wanton waste; her place was in the home.  A girl must cook, sew, preserve, and embroider.  She should know some of the finer arts, too, but not necessarily those learned beyond grade school or at most, in later years, high school.

Travel was difficult and slow with horse and buggy over unimproved roads.  Apart from those who merely paused in Davenport on their way elsewhere, the chances were strong that a young man or woman would marry someone in the community.  We find a great many family interrelationships, often extending over many years, in the area of Davenport, Meredith, and South Worcester.

Neighbor aided neighbor, as discussed in the last chapter, in sickness, childbirth and other emergencies.  If the head of a family had a stroke of bad luck and was unable to plant his crops, without fanfare his neighbors would arrive one morning to do his planting—perhaps even before their own.  If there were a death in the family leaving children orphaned or half orphaned, it was usual and ordinary for a relative to take a child in, treated ever after as a natural born family member.  Welfare, in other words, was an accepted responsibility, primarily by the family and secondarily by the church.  The town’s poormasters helped the destitute, but to go to the poormaster was felt to be shameful.

Mr. Jesse Haynes of East Meredith, interviewed in 1968, represented an example of family life as it existed day-to-day.  He was one of eleven children, of whom one was adopted.  Mr. Haynes had little schooling, perhaps two months in the winter.  At age eleven he was hired out to a farmer for $6 a month and his room and board.  He supported himself ever after or, in his words, he “bought his boots ever since.”  He remembered many occasions, such as the school firewood incident of the previous chapter, that give an insight to the humor and methods of dealing with life. 

When he was 17, Mr. Haynes hired out to Ben McKillip for 25 cents a day and his room and board.  That job he left because he was supposed to learn blacksmithing, but Mr. McKillip had him do carpentry, too.  Haynes moved to New Kingston where he opened his own blacksmith shop, 1893-1898, and then married Frona Tompkins and moved to East Meredith.



Christmas celebrations—or not.  Frona Tompkins Haynes was herself orphaned at six years of age and was taken in by an older sister.  She could not recall celebrating Christmas as a child.  Mr. Haynes remembered distinctly that, his being a large family to feed and clothe, Christmas was just another day.  He did not recall celebrating with even a church service or a special dinner.

Another interviewed family remembered quite vividly Christmas in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Though little money was available, secrets buzzed about the house for weeks.  Mother had made some gift for every member of the family.  The gentleman recounting the tale remembered as a boy receiving a handmade rag doll for Christmas.  A big bowl of the prettiest apples were polished until they shone.  Some were hung on a pine tree along with strings of popcorn arched gracefully among the branches.  A special dinner—but not turkey—was prepared and usually shared with relatives.

In a somewhat better off family, Christmas was very different.  The father in this case had obtained work with the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and moved with his family to Leonia, N.J.  They nevertheless returned each summer and remained attached to Davenport.  These folks exchanged gifts commercially made.  They always had a holiday dinner with turkey and all the trimmings, and they usually invited the minister and his wife to share the feast.  The cherished gift for one daughter was not manufactured, but the hand-sewn new clothes her old doll would wear on Christmas day.  Their Christmas tree was decorated with paper ornaments, popcorn and cranberry strings.  Spring clips held little candles on the pine branches of the tree.

One thing became certain from Davenport interviews.  The Church, at least after about 1880, was the center of Christmas celebrations.  When as adults the Haynes were married and moved to East Meredith, they recalled that the whole town—every family—went to the Christmas party in the hall over Thompson’s Store (later Adair’s).  A large decorated tree was in the corner.  Children memorized selections from the Bible and poems; Christmas carols were sung by all.  Everyone received a gift of some sort: an orange, candy, nuts or some other token given out by “Santa Claus.” This was true of other localities.  The Church saw to it that no family was without provisions for a Christmas dinner.  The ladies of the Church packed baskets, delivered by the minister, of food and goodies.  Sometime Santa Clause might take a devious route, but he always arrived.  Most important, the parties included whole families.  There was not a separate children’s or ladies’ party.

All sorts of bees.  We sometimes think that home life was severe and straight-laced in the early days of our communities, but there were many kinds of social events, too.  These included as usual, whole families, top to bottom.  “Bees” were common.  When a house or barn needed to be built, neighbors would get together, each bringing his own tools.  The women brought the food and the children brought their endless vitality for a day of play.

Quilting bees followed spinning bees.  Women set up a quilt frame around which several women arranged themselves to “tie the quilt.”  The quilt was patched of varied colored materials sewn into patterns such as “the flower basket” or “the star.”  A wool bat was placed between the patchwork quilt and the cotton backing.   With a large needle, heavy cotton thread would then be put through all three thicknesses, brought back up, and tied to keep the layers from slipping.  Four or five quilts might be “tied” in a day while the men worked.  Each lady brought her own gastronomical masterpiece to share.  The accomplishments of the day could be satisfying indeed.

Spinning Bees and Kissing Bees

For the men, the “bee” might be to drag out logs from the woods.  More likely it was to build a barn.  It is a thrill to see a barn rise before your eyes.  One whole side is constructed on the ground; then, with the help of a solid line of men using pikes, the side of the barn is raised and secured in place on the frame.  A whole roof can be shingled in a day.

Most remarkable of all is the fact that often neighbor helped neighbor even if they hadn’t been on speaking terms all year.  In one case known to the author, a farmer was ill but had previously made it known that he did not want others to interfere in his business.  His wishes were meticulously respected until it became known that the farmer was terminally ill and his hay needed to be cut.  One morning a motorcade of tractors with poised cutbars rolled down the road.  Side-delivery rakes followed.  Balers, wagons and trucks arrived on schedule.  It seemed no time at all before the hay was baled and, as the last wagon disappeared from view, a spokesman knocked on the door to announce the number of hay bales stacked in the barn.  This could only happen in a small town where “whatever you wish that man would do to you, do so to him.”

Getting to Bees

In truth, the terminally ill farmer in this case was not originally a local man.  His neighbors, country-bred, had a genuine interest in everyone’s activities.  The farmer in question, city bred, could not understand the natural curiosity of his neighbors and felt that country folk were “too nosey.”

There were other “bees.”  One was called a corn husking bee.  The corn with husks was piled in a long row down through the center of the barn.  Everyone peeled off the husks, and any person who had a “colored ear” (one with different colored kernels) could kiss any person in the place.  Lots of excitement was generated when an eligible bachelor found a colored ear by accident or slight of hand (or hanky-panky).  There was great anticipation when the single “schoolmarm” would get a colored ear by “accident.”

No longer so sinful dancing.  Inns and taverns in the old days were rather raucous places.  Traveling families were installed in the dining room while salesmen, other men and revelers consumed copious quantities of whiskey and danced the night away.  The dance was often a form of “Turkey in the Straw,” reels, or square dancing.  In many cases, as noted above, the tavern (and in fact dancing itself) precipitated discord with religious neighbors.

But dancing survived, and in later years it often was part of a social gathering or followed a “bee.”  When all the corn was husked, the fiddler began to call for “sets,” which meant it was time for the square dance.  Four sets made up the square; the fiddler called out the directions for each dance while the music was played.  Everyone from four to ninety danced in the spirit of the evening; it was not uncommon to see a man of fifty dancing with a little girl of five or six.  The fiddler, in most cases, was not a man who held a regular job for long.  He did, however, hold a position of repute because of his musical talent and importance to the square dance.  Dancing continued until no dancers were left.  The hostess and her friends treated her guests to cider, doughnuts, and pumpkin pie.

Probably the most fun of all was a square dance in a friend’s home (or barn).  Word spread around the neighborhood that a party would be held at Mac Cook’s house, or some other home.  Bring a covered dish.  Many have considered the mystery of why it never happened but that refreshments inevitably consisted of baked beans.  After supper the furniture was moved out of doors, and the fiddler started to make up sets of eight for the dance.  The fiddler usually stood in a central location along with two squares.  Another might dance in the bedroom, one in the dining room, and one more in the parlor.

Sugaring-off and coon hunting.   Another special time came in the early spring of each year.  Then the February-March “sap run” yielded a good supply of maple syrup and sugar.  This gave rise to another social occasion, the “sugaring-off” party.  Syrup was boiled on the old wood-burning stove until it reached the exact waxy stage when tested in a cup of cold water.  While the syrup boiled the guests would play cards like euchre, whist, or pinochle.  Finally, when the syrup was just right, each person or each couple was given a big pan of fresh snow, mounded up high.  The object was to drizzle the hot syrup over the snow, transforming it quickly into something like taffy—chewy and sweet.  After consuming greater quantities than one might expect, a guest would stir a little in a small sauce dish to make soft sugar.  Plain cold milk would be served to help avoid an upset stomach—not something to indulge in every night!

A favorite cold weather, nighttime sport of the men was and continues to be ‘coon hunting.  Good ‘coon dogs are highly prized, tracking and then treeing the raccoon until the hunter or hunters arrive.  The raccoons are hunted for their skins, although the writer has been invited for a ‘coon dinner—delicious—eaten by oil lamplight.

Courting and weddings.  Customs have come and gone with the evolution of society.  Courting, for instance, was quite different in a small 19th century village than it is today.  Families knew each other from birth and were often neighbors.  With scarce spending money, poor roads, and difficult transportation, a courting couple’s activities were mainly centered within the village and especially in the girl’s home.  Of course in addition to bees there were buggy rides where the young couple could snuggle under the buffalo robe, and romantic hayrides.  Dobbin never got lost; he always knew the way home.



Weddings were different, too.  Usually, the bride-to-be sewed her own trousseau and either made her own wedding dress or at least helped to make it.  Generally it was not white because the dress would have to serve as a Sunday dress for a long time.  It might be a gray or a blue suit, or a dress with a jacket.  Weddings were held in the bride’s home, with refreshments served after the ceremony.

Another old custom followed the wedding.  Some night, not too long after the nuptial event, the townsfolk, led by lively young bachelors, would spy on the bridal pair.  When they were reasonably sure the couple was sound asleep, they crept up to the doors and windows and made as much noise as possible.  They pounded saws with a mallet, blew conch shells (acquired and kept for that purpose), hit tin pans with tin spoons, and even set off small cannons and guns.

Then the bride and groom opened the door to receive the uninvited guests.  These then proceeded to swarm over the house.  The bridal bed was taken apart, and many a mattress ended up on the porch roof, and many a bed was found the next day in the haymow.  Salt was put in the sugar bowl, pepper and cloves were mixed together, and raw eggs were thrown in the washing apparatus.  Of course the sooner the groom and the bride started the dancing and served the refreshments, the less mayhem there was.  Sometimes the groom was carried off to a tavern and required to treat all comers.  Occasionally he was taken to another town and left without money to get home the best way he could.  (This indeed did happen to Joe Pizza of East Meredith during the 1900s.  He was taken to Utica and left there.)

Women’s Finery When Davenport Was Young

Of course some “hornings” were much simpler.  The guests would be better behaved, offering congratulations rather than high jinks.  They would be treated to candy and cigars and leave after a brief visit.  The event was a symbol of recognition and acceptance.  After a horning the couple was recognized as married and an acknowledged part of the social order.

Since the advent of the automobile, such hornings have changed, too.  Now they are seldom heard of although as recently as 1967, Edwin Buck of Hoseaville is known to have revived the tradition.  He decorated the underside of a newly wed couples’ mattress springs with dozens of sleigh bells.  Each was individually tied on, quite tightly, with leather thongs—difficult to remove in the middle of the night.  The groom in this case was reported to have spent some time, lying on his back under the bed with a sharp knife.  In an equally sharp break with tradition, Buck telephoned the next morning to rather sheepishly ask if perhaps he had gone too far.



Funerals.  The neighborliness of Davenport and East Meredith extended to all facets of life.  In the case of a death in town, and before the advent of the undertaker, someone in the community kept a “laying out board.”  This board was to be used by anyone who needed it to hold a body while it lay in the house—on a couch or in a bed.  On the day of the funeral the body was put in a pine box.  Funeral services were at home in most cases.  Indeed they were held in the home for many years even after undertakers serviced these small towns.  The undertakers, Mr. James Hall and Mr. Will Flower, had horse-drawn hearses.  Neighbors supplied the mourners with quantities of food, performed chores, and took care of the children during the period of grief.

The following additional illustrations to be found here.


9a United Presbyterian Church, Davenport village, about 1900.  
9b United Methodist Church (later St. Theresa’s Chapel), Davenport Center.  
9c Fergusonville church, picnic lunch after summer ecumenical service.  
9d United Methodist Church, West Davenport, 2001.  
9e Davenport’s Baptist Church, West Davenport, October 2001.  
9f  The Morrell House, West Davenport, used for Baptist functions.  
9g United Methodist Church, Davenport village, early 1900s.  
9h  Remodeled Methodist Church, Davenport village, August 1984.  
9i Ice cream social on lawn of E.A. Taber’s house, Davenport village, about 1904.  
9j Youth choir of the United Methodist Church, Davenport village, 1955.  
9k Parking for Davenport’s last revival meeting, 1929.  
9l I.O.O.F. (Odd Fellows) Hall, Davenport village.  
9m  Rider barn raising, Davenport Center vicinity, 1905.  
9n Ready to raise a section of interior posts and beams, barn in Delhi.  
9o  And the barn raising is completed (last of 3-photo sequence on Delhi barn)  
9p Courting? by bicycle, Davenport village, early 1900s.  
9q  Richard Sanford, former fire chief, on “bone-shaker” bicycle, 2003.

[1] Methodist circuit riders.  (For a more complete account of the origin and history of the Methodist Church in Davenport, see Mary S. Briggs, The Methodist Church in Davenport, 1883-1983; Centennial Edition, Davenport, NY: United Methodist Women, Davenport United Methodist Church, 1983).

[2]  …“a great portion of this country… parts of New-York state…”  (Nathan Bangs, A History of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 3rd ed. (New York, 1840), cited in Bangs, 1995, 46-7.)

[3] The Rev. A. B. Chaffee provides… were appointed to the Delaware Circuit in 1794.  (Chaffee, 1904.)

[4] The Sunday School of the Methodist Church… collection eventually numbered in the hundreds.  (Briggs 1983, p. 21.)

[5] One of the earliest was Reverend Philip Embury… the Methodist Society of New York.  (Ferguson, 1971, 80.)

[6] John and Charles Wesley, the originators of “Methodism,” were both, and continued to be, ordained ministers in the Church of England.  They opposed the ostentation of the Church but not its dogma.

[7] Reverend Elbert Osborn writes in his Memoirs… with Obediah Munger.  (Osborn, 1836, 174; Ferguson, 1971, 75.)

[8] John Bangs also lived for awhile on the Catskill Turnpike, adjoining the property of Clyde Briggs, east of the Blakely Cemetery in West Kortright.  He and his brothers, Nathan and Heman, were among the most noted local circuit riders.  The Rev. Stephen G. Whitehead was another, preaching in Franklin as early as 1803.  (Bangs, 1995, 20.)

[9] Rev. Bangs was a resident… not afraid to grapple with what he thought to be sin wherever he found it.”  (Munsell, 1880, 240.)

[10]  “I formed three societies… in Davenport Center and the other in Harpersfield.”  (Bangs, 1846, 40; Chafee, 1904, 2-3.)

[11] Threatened with a lawsuit… raised even more funds and rebuilt, completing the church in 1832.  (Briggs, 1983, 30.).

[12] The Methodists had no place of worship, … were allowed to use the Congregationalist’s building.  (Briggs, 1983, 30.)

[13]Nicholas Sigsbee tells… “It lasted fifteen days—twelve week days and three Sundays.”  (Sigsbee, 1889a, Sept. 5.)

[14] Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609), Dutch Reformed theologian, asserted the compatibility of divine sovereignty with human freedom.  He denied John Calvin’s doctrine of irresistible grace and thus modified the strict conception of predestination.  “Arminianism” became a term of abuse among the 17th century Puritans but was later the doctrine of Charles and John Wesley and most of the Methodist churches.  (Harris and Levey, The New Colombian Encyclopedia, 1975, 152.)

[15] It is likely, at least, that Rev. Sumner’s co-author, Mr. R. (for Roscoe) D. Miller, was a Methodist.  He lived in Davenport Center and was undoubtedly a relative, possibly a brother, of Ezekiel Miller, a strong Methodist supporter mentioned several times in these pages.  On page 2 of the Aug. 1, 1878, Charlotte Valley News, R. D. Miller offers “hemlock lumber of every description” as a “successor to Ezekiel Miller.”

[16] Abraham Becker was a dominant figure in South Worcester during the mid-1800s.  A highly successful businessman and lawyer, he was also an important landowner and community leader.  (Hartley, 1970, 24.)

[17] “All through the years in this small community… down to 20 in the early nineteen thirties.” (Joseph M. Dent, “History of West Davenport Free Will Baptist Church,” ca. 1992, Davenport Historical Society files.)

[18] Its bell weighed one thousand and seventy pounds.  (Chaffee, 1904, 704.)

[19] The Gilchrist Memorial Church, still preserved, was the former church of Rev. James M. Smeallie, mentioned earlier.  First formed by the pre-Revolutionary Scot settlers in 1774, it later prospered during the height of the Susquehanna/ Catskill turnpike boom.  The Kortright church at one time claimed over five hundred members.  (Munsell, 1880, 240.  Note:  “A. M.” Smeallie is the name given in Munsell.)

[20] The former church after 1999 lay idle until it was sold to antique dealers from Arizona, stripped, and reported resold in 2002—although in the Town’s 2003 assessment files it was still listed as belonging to an Arizona owner   (This section on St. Theresa’s Chapel has drawn upon information from Grace Kent and Kathleen Howarth, both of East Meredith, May 2003.)

[21] Millard Filmore, the American party’s presidential candidate in 1856, polled but a small vote and won only the state of Maryland.  The party grew out of the Know-Nothing movement—nativist, anti-Catholic, and anti-immigration.  (New Columbia Encyclopedia, 1975, 1490.)

[22]  “During the rage for an American party… that claimed to Know Nothing about it.”  (Munsell, 1880, 145.)

[23] Bob Chambers in 2003… burn a cross at the top of the Pine Lake Road [at Pine Lake].  They also burned one above the Ham farm.”  (Letters from Bob Chambers to Mary Briggs and Alan Strout, March 8 and April 30, 2003.)

[24]Years later, Sally Beams “found… cans nailed to the trees.”  (Sally Beams, June 2003, personal communication.)

[25] Sidebar:  His grandfather and great-grandfather…  three miles east of Franklin village.  (Bangs, 1995, 17 and 37).

[26] Sidebar: Three years later, his father sold the farm… and employed his son as a clerk.  (Bangs, 1995, 27.)

[27] Sidebar: There, Phineas at age 17… “realized that the peace of God came into my soul…”  (Bangs, 1995, 32.)

[28] Sidebar: Phineas F. Bresee almost immediately began to preach, “acting on his life vocation...”  (Bangs, 1995, 33.)

[29] Sidebar: It has since grown “into …the largest of the Holiness bodies of the Wesleyan tradition.”  (Bangs, 1995, book jacket, quoting John A. Knight, General Superintendent, Church of the Nazarene.) 

[30] Early members included George Wilson, Merton Hebbard, Jacob Terresly, C.E. Mickey, C.T. Lyon, John S. Taylor, and William and Homer Wardwell.  George Wilson was the oldest at 64.  The age of the younger charter members ranged from 26 to 38.

[31] The Rebekah Lodge’s members included, among many others, Burt and Rose Riddell, Lucy (Shellman) More, Alice More, Bernice Rathbun, Mabel Fish, June MacCracken, Lu Beers, Vera Hickling, Peg Graig, Eva Hunt, Loreen Roberts, Elizabeth Cargin, Minnie Huck, Harmon and Norma More, Gertrude White, and Carol Taber.

[32] Traditionally “liberal and democratic… political compromise.”  (The New Columbia Encyclopedia, 1975, p. 1007.)

[33] Freemasonry in the United States in fact began earlier.  “In 1728, Benjamin Franklin started a ‘Leather Apron Club.’  In 1730 in his newspaper Franklin stated there were several Lodges in the Province.  He himself most likely became a Mason in 1731, and by 1732 he was Jr. Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge in Pennsylvania.  In 1731, Daniel Coxe was the Provincial Grand Master of North America.”  (Communication from Bernice Graham Telian, June 2003, citing Wilmer E. Bresee, “Masonic Trails of Early New York,” No. 1, 1981.)

[34]Freemasonry followed… one of the first lodges… and in Philadelphia (Gould, 1856, 410)

[35] Early Free Masons… U.S. presidents have been Masons. (The New Columbia Encyclopedia, 1975, p. 1007.)

[36] The Grand Lodge of New York… oldest was in Albany (1759).[36]  (Information from Bernice Graham Telian, citing Wilmer E. Breesee, “Masonic Trails of New York,” No. 1, 1981.)

[37] Nine lodges existed in Delaware County… and Franklin (1815).  (Munsell, 1880, 300, 242, 227, and 186; Gould, 1856, 410-411; and Wilmer E. Bresee, “The Beginnings of Masonry in Delaware County,” cited by Bernice Graham Telian in a personal communication.)

[38] In New York State today… and in the brotherhood of mankind." ”(2003 Brochure of the Grand Lodge of Free & Accepted Masons of the State of New York.)

[39] In an 1871 trial, the Church found Ebenezer Harkness…  reinstated in the church.  (“Papers of Rev. Harold S. Giffen, Pastor of the Davenport United Presbyterian Church.”  Presented to the Delaware County Historical Society, August 6, 1960.)

[40] Rosella  Frisbee told of having an oyster supper when she visited Franklin village on January 5, 1857.  (Bernice Graham Telian, ed., 1856-1859 Diaries of Rosella D. Graham Frisbee, privately printed, 2000, p. 23).  In the January 2, 1877, Bloomville Mirror, a writer asks, “Can someone tell me how many oysters are disposed…by the people of this vicinity?  Ed. Hinman says that he sold 50 gallons last week.  A.L. Churchill supplies them by the tub, Canfield by the keg, and occasionally Ezra Gifford comes along with a load.  They are good for a change of diet.”

[41] The U.S. Navy provided liquor… employers to provide daily liquor allotments to their workmen.  (Kobler, 1973, 56.)

[42] This, however, was far below the recorded national average consumption of 4½ gallons in 1910.  (Kobler, 1973, 30.)  Delaware County in 1810 had a population of 20,303, of whom only 9,636 were 16 years old or older.  Greene County’s whiskey production was much greater at 161,000 gallons for 19,536 residents; while neighboring Otsego produced 93,300 gallons of distilled spirits for a population of 38,802.

[43] In the year 1810, spirits were distilled… for every man, woman and child in the county.  (Coxe, 1814.)

[44] In 1808 a temperance group arose in Saratoga, New York.  (New Colombia Encyclopedia, 1975, 2710.)

[45] A “society for reformed drunkards”… won minor victories in other states.”  (Morison and Commager, 1942, 376.)

[46] Laborers were believed to be especially heavy drinkers.  (Ranzini, 1987.)

[47] Gerrit Smith (1897-1874), mentioned often in these pages, inherited vast land possessions from his father, Peter Smith.  He took over the management of his father’s holdings about 1819, a year after graduating from Hamilton College.  An extremely rich man (at one time Peter Smith had owned more land than the State of New York), Gerrit became an avid reformer and also dabbled in politics, serving for one year as a U.S. Congressman and helping in 1869 to form a National Prohibition Party.  Smith also had supported U.S. and foreign Christian missions, vegetarianism, land reform, prison reform, opposition to government-financed institutions such as public schools and post offices, crusades against tobacco and Freemasonry, the abolitionist John Brown, and women’s rights, including suffrage and women’s dress reform.  (Gerrit Smith’s daughter Cornelia invented the “bloomer,” the divided woman’s garment popularized by Amelia Jenks Bloomer.)  To these various causes Gerrit Smith gave more than $8 millions, “roughly eight times the value of his estate at death.”  (Kobler, 1973, 103-113.)  Though extensive landowners in Davenport, neither Peter nor Gerrit Smith ever lived for any length of time in the town.

[48] The Independent Order of the Good Templars had been formed in 1851, an offshoot of the Sons of Temperance and the Sons of Jericho, was the “only temperance society which had not only retained a sizable membership during the Civil War, but increased it afterwards.”  (Kobler, 1973, 73, 96.)

[49] Mr. R.D. Miller, one of the two …first formal leader of the Davenport Center lodge.[49]  (Munsell, 1880, 147-8.)

[50] The earliest temperance societies were generally restricted… some women in the 1850s.  (Kobler, 1973, 73.)

[51] In 1874 the Women’s Christian… second president, Francis Willard.  (New Colombia Encyclopedia, 1975, 3000.)

[52] New York champagne had won its first gold medal at the Vienna Exposition in 1873.  (Ranzini, 1987.)

[53] The WCTU under Francis Willard also embraced… protection for abused children.  (Pegram, 1998, 68-71.)

[54] Membership List of WCTU, 1887, Davenport Historical Society Archives.  The omission of women’s first names or even initials, even in predominantly women’s groups, continued well into the following century.

[55] The action was filed… “him to become an habitual drunkard, dissolute, and worthless.”  (Charlotte Valley News, April 18, 1883, Edward O’Connor, editor.)


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