Preserving Our Dayton Heritage

A few days ago, a reader wrote to say that he enjoyed writing and asked what type of material I was looking for to publish.   It made me realize that I have not done a good job of communicating what I’m looking for.  So I wrote him back with some ideas of a very specific sort.

In general, I want stories of any type that helps you bloggers learn more about our kin.  I’m trying to keep our Wilber and Jessie Dayton bond strong as we drift farther and farther apart as kindred of the Dayton boys and girl :(Chop, Chip, Wilber, Paul, and Flossie).

Remember my cousins… there are only six of us left who even remember Wilber and Jessie enough to tell our younger generation about them.  If we don’t tell their story, it is lost forever.  Shame on us.  Tell us about the Mechanic St house.  Gramma’s cooking.  Christmas.  Gramma’s poor health, their interests, did gramma make her own clothes, etc.  Write about anything that will preserve their life and times for younger generations to know. I will proof it for you before posting.

Given that general guidance in the previous paragraphs, what stories can the rest of you contribute?  Is there any folklore you’ve heard about any generation above yours?  Are there any stories about your mom or dad, or gramma and grampa, or a tribute to your your dad and/or mom, grampa or gramma, stories (comical or informational or of a folklore nature) about your parents and/or siblings? How about accomplishments of your family including spouse, children or grandchildren.  Don’t be bashful about bragging a little. 

We want the generations of Dayton’s following Wilber and Jessie to celebrate the fact that we are so blessed because of them.  I want our proud heritage as Dayton’s to “live long and prosper”, as Mr. Spock would say.  I want us all to know our kin folk.

Doreen McCutcheon has set the benchmark for contemporary stories by witing about her family.  Thanks Doreen.  If you write contemporary stories I will protect them from “prying eyes” by password protecting the story.  I have sent my former newsletter relatives the password.  If you don’t know it, send me an email and I will send it to you. Keep this password with your other passwords. And give the password to your children and encourage them to read the blog or subscribe to the emails.

Remember that you can leave comments on a post (story).  They are most welcome.  And click on “like” if you enjoy the post in a special way.

I encouage leaving comments after reading a post. The post may trigger a thought about a story or reaction which should be shared with everyone. All comments are screened by me before being posted.

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We’re Big Dutch and Don’t You Forget It

The Dutch part of our Dayton pedigree has always fascinated me, and our move to western Michigan and our many Dutch friends rekindled my interest in this part of my (and your) heritage.  In addition, five of my grandchildren are over fifty percent Dutch.  The Dutch, and specifically the Dutch Reformed Church, kept meticulous records of births, baptisms and marriages, so we have a nearly complete pedigree of all the branches off the Flansburg line all the way back to the settling of New Netherlands.

Anna Flansburg, mother of Jessie Belle [WHITE] Dayton, was attributed with frequently reminding her children, “We’re big Dutch and don’t you forget it!”  She was obviously proud of her Dutch heritage and wanted all of her kids to never forget it. Well, my great grandma ……now none of your descendants down at least five generations will forget. 

Oh, how I wish I could ask great-gramma Anna what she meant by “big Dutch.”  My interpretation is that she considered persons of Dutch descent to be of a very hardy stock with certain characteristics exceeding the lowly English and other ethnicities.  If we took a poll of the readers of this publication, I’m sure that we would get many other interpretations.  If you feel inclined, leave a comment.  The next three posts will be a continuation of stories about this same Flansburg family and lineage.

Faith of Our Fathers

Doreen McCutcheon, my cousin Doris Lamos’ daughter asked me, a couple months ago, what I knew about the faith of our Dayton fathers.  I believe we Daytons have a rich heritage of the Christian faith.  I’ll tell you what I know of it, and you can decide.  Christian faith is difficult to judge because no one can know the heart of others.  I will have to base my opinion mainly on outward appearance, about which the Bible cautions us.  I believe that most of the time this definition works.  I would also add that Dayton females often live their Christian service vicariously through their spouses and their actual teamwork.  Christian women are often active as nurses, teachers, supporters of missions and missionaries, Sunday School and VBS directors and teachers, organists, pianists, choir leaders, Bible Study leaders, etc.  I KNOW, I know….I’m stereotyping.  We have several Dayton female pastors and church lay leaders.

Generosity (births and deaths spanning the years from 1905 to 2009)

The number one Christian trait in the Dayton family is the generosity in both service and finances. There is evidence of this everywhere we look. For example, among Wilber and Jessie’s offspring:

Flossie, the oldest child, was a schoolteacher and faithful member of the Free Methodist Church in Corinth where she was a part-time Adult Sunday School teacher.  In her later years, she read her Bible daily in foreign languages: English, Spanish, French and probably German.  Her favorite was Spanish. She had daily devotions with the children. She would play hymns on the pump organ while the family sang.  Then she and George would pray.  What she lacked in formal church activities she more than made up for in a sweet, loving and gentle spirit that oozed her love of Christ from every pore of her being.  She was a fine example of the woman of Proverbs 31:10-31 (The wife of noble character).

Charles was a Wesleyan Methodist pastor and church administrator, including terms as President of the Champlain Conference and later District Superintendent of the Champlain District of the Wesleyan Methodist Church.  He was the epitome of aid of all sorts to the underprivileged.  From his own personal resources, he assisted with shelter, food, personal visitation, transportation, friend and counseling of all types.  He often met their needs for sustenance by any means possible, including solicitating help from the likeminded.  He also had a vision and passion for planting new churches.  He wanted to spread the word as far as he could within the bounds of wise financing.   Chop’s generosity was frequently rewarded by the gifts of possession that were repeatedly left to him because the deceased knew he would do good with them.

He was pastor of churches in upstate New York, Vermont and Massachusetts. Following retirement, he assisted wherever an opportunity arose at the Wesleyan Retirement Village in Brooksville FL.   

Chester was a lay preacher, held numerous church offices and was much more than a nominal tither at the suggested 10% level. I know, for a fact, that one year he tithed and gifted 32%.  Other years could have been even more, but he shunned the public eye in such matters.  Chip stood tall in various pulpits as an active Gideon as he shared the importance of distributing Bibles.  He was a Sunday School teacher and lay leader of his local Wesleyan Church in Corinth, New York.  After his second wife, Elizabeth died, he married Marjean Chapman, who was an ordained evangelist in the Wesleyan Church.

Wilber Jr. was a pastor, a seminary professor, Christian college President and prolific Christian author.  He travelled extensively and internationally to lecture, teach and preach.  He was renowned on a worldwide scale. He was an active participant on the team of scholars who translated the New International Version of the Bible (NIV) from the original Greek into English.  He was affiliated with the Wesleyan Methodist Church, was a benchmark for scholarly endeavors and was highly respected and admired by his peers.  His wife Donna held post graduate degrees and was employed in various University capacities including Librarian, and assistant Professor at several Colleges and Universities.

Paul probably held more church offices and performed more gifts of service than anyone in the entire Wesleyan denomination.  Besides official church offices, many building projects leadership, fund raising responsibilities, Sunday School teaching and administration, and youth leadership, he did more behind the scenes physical work than even I, his son, can remember.  For example, he was electrician, plumber, carpenter, snow plower, infrastructure planner and repairer, vehicle mechanic, bus driver, transportation director, orchestra founder, and conductor, etc. Beyond all that, he was a passionate financial backer to the extent that church donations trumped his own needs. Paul annually contributed much more than the nominal 10% tithe.  I believe it was more than double, as, I believe, his brothers might have done also.

So how could poorly educated and poorly financially endowed parents like Wilber and Jessie Dayton raise children who were such stellar members of the Christian faith.  It was because of their example and their consistency in rearing their children.  Click here to hear what Chip had to say on this subject.  Younger generations, please heed Chip’s advice!

My conclusion is that this characteristic of generosity is still at the forefront of Wilber’s grandchildren’s Christian experience, as well as their own descendants.  Generosity “rocks” in the Dayton family.

Wilber and Jessie’s Faith (Wilber 1870-1957)  (Jessie Belle (1880-1958)

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Jessie Belle [White] Dayton, wife of Wilber, wore the spiritual leadership pants in Wilber and Jessie’s marriage.  Wilber loved the Lord and was born again, but his shy disposition and backward social skills left the family training largely to Jessie. I am in possession of Wilber and Jessie’s tithe can (see photo).  We know they tithed. Despite their poverty, they still gave at least 10% to the church and did it before anything else was paid for. Jessie read to her children from the Hulbert Bible story book, an 800-page illustrated book with beautiful black and white etchings, now in the possession of Stephen Dayton.  Family altar was the first priority every day.  Family altar was a time when the family got together for a time of Bible reading and prayer.  It lasted 30 minutes or more.  In Paul’s family, the tradition continued.  After a Bible passage or story, each family member knelt and prayed, from the eldest to youngest, and the session was completed with the Lord’s prayer.  I imagine family altar was practiced in all the Dayton families.   On Sunday, Jessie, Wilber and their children attended the Corinth Sunday School, morning service, “class meeting”, a time of testimony and witnessing, evening prayer service and evening worship.  In the afternoon, they attended Hadley Wesleyan Methodist church, where Jessie was Sunday School Superintendent.  I doubt they had time to eat until after Corinth’s evening service.  They didn’t set aside Sunday as a day of physical rest.  They practiced spiritual rest.

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Jessie’s mother, Anna [Flansburg] [White] [Ramsey] Dingman (1855-1935)

We know nothing of Jessie’s father’s faith (Alexander White Sr), but her mother, Anna Maria [Flansburg] White, was a Wesleyan Methodist preacher’s kid.  Her faith was strong, and she was a devout saint. I personally know little about her specific spiritual attributes, although Wilber and Jessie’s children all knew her since she lived until 1935. She was a member of the Hadley Wesleyan Methodist Church.  This could have been the reason Jessie’s family attended there in addition to Corinth.  Hadley certainly would have been the church both Wilber and Jessie called their own.

Rev. William Flansburg, Jessie’s grandfather (1809-1897)

Anna’s, father, Rev. William Flansburg (Jessie’s grandfather) became a “born-again” Christian farmer in the mid-1840’s,  when he was in his early 30’s.  He started his first pastorate just a couple of years later in the Free Will Baptist Church in Johnsburg, New York.  In the mid ‘50s, he joined the Wesleyan Methodist church, and thereafter was a pastor in Vermont, and in Hamilton, Warren and Saratoga counties in New York state.  O.D. Putnam, his friend and colleague, wrote a wonderful tribute which will appear in next month’s newsletter.

Charles and Nancy Dayton (1832 – 1882)

Charles and Nancy were the parents of Wilber Sr.  They died when Wilber was only thirteen, and he never talked about his parents, so we know nothing about them.  Charles was a sheep rancher.  All that we know of Charles’ faith was inferred in a comical folklore story that Chip tells.  Click here to hear that story.  That’s all we know about Charles.

Henry Dayton, grandfather of Wilber Sr (1792-1849)

Henry Dayton was the father of Charles.  The primary spiritual declaration and affirmation of Henry’s faith is engraved on his gravestone.  It reads, “Why stand you weeping round my tomb Wilst I with Jesus rest in peace.  When God has called and took me home prepare my friend to follow soon”   Obviously, he was a Christ lover and follower.  He claimed, with confidence, the presumption that he would be taken to heaven.  He challenged all who read his stone to get their own lives “right with God” so that they too could inherit eternal life.  Regarding church denomination, we know that he was a member of the Methodist Episcopal denomination.  Today, the denomination is known as United Methodist.

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David Dayton Jr, father of Henry  (1766-1807)

We know very little of David Jr.’s spiritual situation.  He raised several Christian believer children who were all Methodist Episcopal, so it stands to reason that he too was a Methodist Episcopal believer. I base this opinion on the truth of the adage, “Like father, like son”.  The closest church was across the Hudson River on the road from Luzerne to Buttermilk Falls.  We suspect that David may have used his buckboard to ford the river at a shallow point just upriver from the church.

David Dayton Sr, father of David Jr (Between 1737 and 1739 – 1782)

We also know very little of David Sr.’s spiritual testimony.  In writing our book, Our Long Island Ancestors, The first six generations of Daytons in America 1639-1807, Steve and I have reason to believe that when David and Anne moved to Setauket [Brookhaven] from Egg Harbor, NJ, they attended the Setauket Presbyterian church for a short period of time.  However, the pastor, Rev Elam Potter, was an abolitionist;  David owned a slave, so we suspect David was not welcome in that church.

Henry Dayton, father of David Sr (1706-1759)

He was a member of the Setauket Presbyterian Church in Brookhaven, Suffolk County, New York.  I have a family transcript of the members (including Henry) of that church about 1750.  Curiously, his wife, Abigail, is not listed as a member.  For many of the male members, the roll reads “and wife,” so it isn’t clear why she wasn’t listed.

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Abraham Dayton, father of Henry (about 1654 – after 1726)

Records were found of Abraham being a Setauket NY Presbyterian financial pledger both for the salary of a pastor, and the building of a new “meeting house” for the new pastor.  These were all within the Town of Brookhaven (Long Island).  Being a big donor (there’s that Dayton generosity again), it stands to reason that he was a regular attender and probably at some point was a lay elder.

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Samuel Dayton, father of Abraham (1624 – 1690)

Steve and I believe, without direct confirmation and primary sources, that Samuel was a Puritan.  We know more about Samuel’s life than any other early ancestor, but there is no mention of a religious choice.  He was a Puritan by baptism (in England) rather than through practice.

Ralph Dayton, father of Samuel (about 1588 – 1658)

Ralph was a Puritan.  Steve and I have a record of his assignment of seating at the meeting house in East Hampton, NY.  (Yes, even way back then, people sat in the same pew every Sunday). Prior to coming to America, he worshiped at St Mary’s the Virgin in Ashford, Kent County, England.  He was a dissident Puritan, meaning that he openly opposed the Church of England and the King.  These dissidents experienced much persecution, but it is unclear whether Ralph experienced it.  It may have been the reason he, and most of his family, sailed to the New World.

Hey Doreen, below is the real answer

Letter to the Editor

DFH Volume 1 Issue 25

From time to time I receive a comment to an article which must be shared with you.  This month’s is a doozer.  My proofer, Izzie, is on the verge of insubordination and being fired for her telling it like it is.  She didn’t suck up to the boss like so many employees do, and what the bosses expect.  However, I thought maybe her courage might also get your juices flowing, and you may want to join in the insanity and controversary.  Come on people!  Let me hear from you on this and future articles.  What follows is the letter which started all this baloney.

IZZIE HAYES WRITES:

Dearest Editor,

I would never say you’re “doing it all wrong,” but this sweet old lady-of-93-Christmases  cherishes this glorious holiday, with all its rituals and traditions, more than most and has perfected a sequence for taking the work out of decorating the tree!!!

  1. Starting with “The Nutcracker suite” to get the creative Christmas juices flowing is a fine choice. (I personally favor Handel’s “Messiah”—at full volume—including “The Hallelujah chorus.”)  Anything but the perennial “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”   In any case, it just isn’t Christmas until someone yells,  “Can you crank that thing down?!?”
  1. You wrote,  “First came the ornaments. . . next came the lights.”  No, no, no, Mr. Editor!  Decorating your tree that way is a make work project and a sure-fire disaster There’s a much easier choice. If you eschew the cut-your-own tree farm or consider the pricey-but-puny offerings at the lot by your gas station beyond your consideration, you might go to Lowes or Home Depot or even Wal-Mart.  There you will find stunning artificial trees with built-in light systems, either all white or all colored or alternating between the two.  None of the annual struggle with tangled strands of half functional lights!!

If traditional is your thing, step #2 still comes after “The Nutcracker!”  Get the strings of lights out of storage (preferably some new ones). Wrap them throughout the tree—high and low—some close to the trunk of the tree and some out on the branches.  Then sit back and admire the gloriously festive tree before you.

  1. O.K.—Now! Bring out your precious ornaments for the final step.  No more getting them messed up by the removal of strings of lights!

Christmas season is my time for excesses, but putting strings of lights on my tree after the tree has my choice ornaments in place is not one of them.  Two choruses

of “Deck the Halls”… “ and a very Merry Christmas to all of you.

I am not Scrooge!!!!

I love you.  Izzie 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Reply To my favorite employee:

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I’m not so sure you’re a sweet old lady yet…you’ve still got a lot of fabulous and mischievous kid, and spunk, left in you. Please accept that as a compliment!  Don’t ever lose your youthful spirit.

Alas, we’ve (Jim Dayton household) had an artificial tree for as long as I can remember.  Even the Paul Dayton family had an artificial tree after about 1975.  Anyway, my family has had an artificial from about 1980 to present.   The description of decorating the tree dates from about 1976 till they left home.  Viva la tinsel! Viva la “bubbly” candles!  It’s a less glitzy celebration when the kids are gone.

I bet we did the sequence of decorating it your way on points 2 and 3.  It was so long ago I can no longer remember.  One thing I do remember.  It was a very joyous occasion for each member of our family.  We looked forward to it year after year.  One of my kids has carried on the tradition (partially).  She has an artificial 10’ tree and prefers that each family member participates in decorating it.  She’s partial to good taste now, and the tree is beautiful. 

Now the Jim and Judy family has a new tradition. Judy buys a Hallmark ornament for each of the grandchildren each year, something very personalized to symbolize an important event in their life that year.  For example, my granddaughter, who won on the National Cheerleading Championship team, gets a cheerleader figurine this year.  Judy has another tradition we as a family love.  She writes a poem for each family member for their main gift, which the recipient reads when they open their present.  Each poem is personalized to fit the gift and/or the person. I have a book of her poems.  And don’t forget to add the mistletoe and holly.   And most importantly… we never forget why we have this season. God fulfilled his promise to send a Messiah to be the ultimate sin sacrifice for all humankind.  “Happy holidays” is not in my vocabulary;  “Merry Christmas” is!

Merry Christmas, Your boss.

Bad News-Good News. Keep Your Chin Up, Mary!

DFH Volume 1 Issue 25

By Jim Dayton

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FIRST THE BAD NEWS—My sister, Mary Fuller, daughter of Paul and Ruth Dayton, has been homebound for many years, suffering several painful conditions. Nearly 35 years ago she was in an automobile accident which left her with excruciating back pain. Then about 30 years ago, she was stricken with fibromyalgia, a debilitating disease which amplifies pain to nerve endings.  A simple, light touch to the body can cause major pain.  It has left her in a wheelchair most of the time. Despite this, she tried to get to church each Sunday, and she usually did.  She got out to go to the doctor, and sometimes to dinner.  Then in November 2018, she was diagnosed with bone cancer in her shoulder and upper arm.  They successfully replaced bone with metal, and that completely removed that pain.  In the spring of 2019, they discovered a small cancerous spot on her back.  During the surgery to remove it, they damaged a nerve which extended down her leg all the way to her toes.  As a result, that damage incapacitated her leg.  She now uses either a walker or wheelchair for every mobile moment.

NOW THE GOOD NEWS—Fortunately, some outdoor mobility has returned.  She still uses a wheelchair or walker for every moving moment, but, her wonderful, caregiving husband, Bill Fuller, recently added a lift chair to their porch stairs.  She is still in a wheelchair and the pain hasn’t subsided, but now she is able to get to a car and regain some freedom.  She’s been to her hairdresser. It’s no longer an ordeal to go to a doctor’s appointment.  She’s been to restaurants.  And most importantly, she can go to church again.  Bill is thrilled to see Mary “on the go,” if only a very small go-at-a-time.  All is still not rosy, but it’s a major improvement in her quality of life.  I’m sure she would love to hear from her Dayton relatives.  You can reach her at 28 Oak St., Corinth, NY, 12822.  She may be too ill to answer, but she wants you to know that she loves her Dayton extended family.

Neighborhood Caroling

DFH Volume 1 Issue 25

By Jim Dayton

   The Joy of Christ in Christmas was never so real as the evening our neighborhood in Connecticut got together for caroling and refreshments.

We lived in a new 88-acre development, and we were all corporate gypsies.  Its residents came from every corner of America, and we cherished the geographical, cultural, ethnic and religious diversity of our roots, especially our local Christmas traditions.  None of us had family close by, so we neighbors were one big family.  One Christmas season, someone organized a neighborhood gathering for Christmas caroling and a time of refreshments.   About fifty people showed up.

   We gathered, after dark, at the turnaround of a cul-de-sac.  The air was frigid, so the men had built a fire in a 55-gallon drum.  The neighborhood “friendship leader” had the foresight to hand out copies of the words to the carols.  We read the words by firelight or flashlight.  Nearly all the carols we sang honored Christ—I don’t remember singing about Rudolph or Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.  We sang about Christ In a Manger, about a Little Town Called Bethlehem, about a Silent and Holy Night, about Joy, about Angels Singing, about Merry Gentlemen Resting.  It thrilled my soul to see and hear my neighbor’s families joyfully singing about Christ.  Godliness and practicing Christianity aren’t very high priorities in New England.  That night, the presence of Christ came to the end of Horse Stable Circle, and I saw the love of Christ on the faces of my friends and neighbors.  I heard the love of Christ in their voices.  The Johnsons opened their home to us, and when we finished singing our praises to God for the babe in the manger, we filled their house with laughter and joy.

Corporate gypsies move on.  None of our families live there anymore.  But every Christmas, I’ll bet there are a dozen or so families that fondly remember the love they felt for their neighbors and the presence of Christ at the end of Horse Stable Circle one Christmas eve.

Ruining a Friend’s Belief System

DFH Volume 1 Issue 25

By Jim Dayton

I never believed in Santa Claus.  From my beginning, dad taught me that Santa was mythological and that the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ was the entire purpose for Christmas.  When I was in 2nd grade, I let my friend, Ron Dunn, in on the secret.  Not only did I tell him that there was no Santa, but I explained the reasons why St. Nick could not be real.  I convinced him, and he ran and told his mother.  His mother got so mad at me, she ordered me to leave.  On the way home, I analyzed what had just happened, and I couldn’t make any sense out of getting in trouble because I had told the truth.

Dad’s Horrid Christmas Tree

Christmas memories are some of the fondest of a lifetime full of memories. When I published a Sunday School Newsletter in Texas in the nineties, I asked the class to send me stories of their fondest Christmas memories.  Here are some that I wrote for that newsletter.

DFH Volume 1 Issue 25

By Jim Dayton

When it came to harvesting a Christmas tree, my dad, Paul Dayton, could hold his own with Charlie Brown.  If they ever held a contest for worst looking tree, my dad would retire the trophy.  He sometimes cut one from the woods behind his sawmill.  He delighted in his manly duty of choosing and felling “just the right one” for our small home.  He preferred spruce or balsam over pine, even though pine was the wood of choice for his livelihood.  Pine was too messy.  His pride and joy was usually about 6 feet tall, and it sprouted about one or two branches per foot.   It was pathetic.  My mom never complained, but she must have been disappointed year after year.  She did the best she could to cover its nakedness, but it was hopeless.  Starting when we were old enough to discern its shame, my brothers and sisters and I would always joke about how bad it was.  Now we have come to enjoy memories of our dad’s trees because of their, and his, unique character.  [Footnote: Some years he purchased one, so this story is a little exaggerated.  However it makes a valid point.]