The Corinth Wesleyan Church, established in 1873, grew to be the largest church in the Champlain Conference of the Wesleyan Methodist denomination in the late 50’s and early 60’s. At its zenith, it achieved a Sunday School attendance of over 300 persons. The normal SS attendance was consistently over 200. In its later years, attendance waned to the extent that, in the early 2000’s, the pastor declared that “this church is no longer dying…it’s dead.”
Shortly thereafter the Corinth Wesleyan Church discontinued all services and activities. In one of the most irresponsible and bizarre actions I have ever heard of, the church officials simply locked the doors, walked away and listed it with a realtor. It was a heartbreaking action for those members who loved the church which was their spiritual sanctuary. The officials left everything behind. They did not save or retrieve a single thing.
Recently, my brother, Steve, was able to retrieve ALL of the churches baptism, marriage and funeral records from 1873 to the day the doors closed. He also retrieved the financial books and the quarterly conference meeting minutes. I have been scanning every non-financial page and will make the PDF’s available to anyone who wants them when I am finished.
You can’t image my excitement as I witnessed kinfolk after kinfolk showing up as elected officers…the backbone of the church. Even grampa and gramma Dayton (Wilber and Jessie) were elected church officials several times.
From time to time in future posts, I will be revealing findings and observations. I even held an elected position once…assistant bell ringer. Hey…it’s in the official records so it must have been a big deal. Let’s face it, the pastor wouldn’t have known when to start, were it not for us bell ringers. Another Dayton ringer alumnus was Roger Dayton. Congratulations Roger.
One of the Dayton-Family-History readers wrote to me, “Here’s a question for you… what was your recollection of growing up in a family of 5 kids? What memories stick out to you? Was the age gap a big deal? We’re you close as kids?”
I don’t remember any complicated or unpleasant consequences. Our living, eating, clothing and transportation resources seemed routine. I guess when you don’t know differently, then what exists is normal. I suppose our ancient Daytons felt normal living in a two room home back in the 1600’s on long Island. Anyway, our Paul Dayton family of seven lived in a small three bedroom, one bathroom home. I don’t remember it being more inconvenient than other homes I lived in later in life. I’ll admit it was an inconvenience needing to use the toilet when someone else was using it. There were no disasters…you accepted all circumstances.
Meals were at a table built for four (with one leaf) in a very small kitchen, but we ate as much as we wanted and never went away hungry. We had a larger dining room table with seating for 8, but that was saved only for company. Later on, Judy and I had 2 girls living in a home with 2 ½ baths, 3 bedrooms, large living room, den, kitchen with large breakfast nook and dining room, but we were no more or less crowded than in my growing up house.
Growing up, our car was a 2 door Ford Fairlane coupe. It didn’t seem crowded even though there were 3 persons in front and 4 in the rear. I have a video of everyone getting out of the car. It looks like a circus clown comedy drill, but we tolerated the accommodations well. However, once having upgraded, that becomes the new norm and you can’t go back without great inconvenience.
My life was sports. The role of a mother as a taxi driver didn’t exist. I made my own arrangements to get home after practice. Most of the time it involved walking home. After football practice, I walked home with a friend who still had about 6 miles to go. He hitchhiked or walked, after he had walked with me for ¾ miles. It was normal for him.
The age gap for the children in our family was 13-years from oldest to youngest sibling. We were never a close, touchy-feely family. The older you get, the smaller the age gap and the bigger in closeness and adoration. I’m 72 years old and closer to my siblings than ever before… especially my brother who is 9 years my younger. I didn’t know him growing up.
I was closest to my older sister mostly because of parental intervention. My parents expected me, as a 10 to 13 year old, to be a protective escort for Mary. My dad insisted on it. My sister enjoyed taking evening walks after sundown and going to the local diner to hang out with friends from town and out of town. They hung out at a table, drinking coffee and listening to the jukebox for a couple hours at a time. Mary always was telling me to stand erect so I would look taller. The point is, we got to know each other a little. My playmates were always neighborhood friends my age.
I can only vividly remember two instances of direct interaction with my brothers. I suspect there was daily happy interaction, but it was normal, not memorable.
I haven’t done these questions justice in this brief account. I wrote an autobiography for my family a few years ago, and it took about 15 chapters to answer the growing up questions. I would highly recommend that each of you write or “video” an autobiography so your descendants can carry on your legacy to future generations.
If you found a watch lying in the street, what would you do? If you were poorer than a church mouse, would you say, “God is Good, He just gave me a new watch?” If you were greedy, would you say, “too bad sucker, it’s mine now?” If you were rich, would you just leave it there for some other lucky person to find?
Do you know what our gramma, Jessie Belle Dayton, did? Our gramma Jessie, who WAS poorer than a church mouse? She went to the newspaper office with her “widows’ mite”, purchased a classified advertisement hoping she could find its owner and return it. How many people do you think would do that? Was she nuts? Had she gone off the deep end? Or was she someone with exceptional integrity? Someone with exceptional generosity? She probably used grocery money to pay for the ad. Thank you, gramma, for walking like you talked. You taught us well.
Rev. Charles Alexander Dayton, my Uncle Chop, was a man who was bigger than life. He was the Paul Bunyan of Upstate New York country pastors. But in his younger days he was the Huckleberry Finn of the upper-Hudson River. Todays story is a tale of a childhood prank gone bad as told by his younger brother Chip [Chester]….the master story teller.
Shirley Tharp sent in a photo which has previously been unknown. The portrait is of Jessie Belle Dayton, wife of Wilber Thomas Dayton Sr, and my generation’s grandmother. My guess is that gramma would have been about 50 years old in this photo. The photo, then, would have been taken about 1930. Notice that she wore John Lennon iconic glasses forty years before he made them famous to rock and rollers like myself. You were cool, Gramma.
If any of you have any photos which you can contribute, I’d love them, and so would our readers. I’ve got one of my family (15 of us) which I will include in a future edition. I especially covet a portrait digital image of Elizabeth Dayton, either alone or with Uncle Chip. I only have one photo of her, and it is a cropped photo from a poor-quality snapshot original.. The result is a blurry-grainy photo of such poor quality that you can hardly identify the person in the photo as Aunt Lib. Please, please, send one (or two or three…no amount is too many). I am the self-declared curator of Dayton family photos. I would love photos you can send of your families, both immediate and extended. Also, if you would like a copy of my collection of Dayton photos, then send a blank flash drive (16 gigabytes is sufficient) to Jim Dayton, 8366 Ridgestone Dr., Byron Center, MI 49315. Most photos are identified by name and date. If you want to put your family photos on the drive for me to copy, that would be all the better.
In 1997, I interviewed Wilber Dayton, Jr. for Volume 2 Issue 2 of an earlier version of the Dayton Family History. Since most of you were not subscribers back then, I repeat it here in this issue as follows:
Interview with Dr. Wilber T. Dayton, Jr.: Remembrances of Dad & Mom
Dr. Dayton, or Wib as the family fondly knows him, was one of the early professors of the Wesleyan Methodist Denomination to receive an earned doctorate – Th.D. He taught 15 ½ years at Marion College, 13 ½ years at Asbury Theological Seminary, was President of Houghton College for 4 years, Professor of Wesley Biblical Seminary for 11 years and short-term missionary teacher India and South America. He is the author of books, articles, etc. He is presently enjoying retirement in Macon, GA with his wife Edna.1
I recently interviewed Wib along the theme of his remembrances of his parents – Wilber T, Sr. and Jessie Belle Dayton. As usual, Wib’s comments are very insightful and give a very comprehensive view using his mastery of language and wit.
DFH: Wilber, Sr.’s parents were both dead by the time he was 13. Where did he and his brothers & sisters stay, who took care of them, what did he do in his teenage years?
WIB: Thanks for the information that my Dad lost both parents by the time he was 132. That means that it was over 20 years before Dad married Mom. I can only assume from what I’ve heard that five children were left to fend for themselves in the old Dayton Place in West Hadley Hill. They probably had to take over the farming and housework to keep eating and wearing clothes. I don’t know whether there were any relatives close enough to help or not. I would judge that people were pretty scarce in the area in those days to help with their social, physical and spiritual health. I never heard much discussion of home training in Dad’s youth. (I think there was a James Dayton of some prominence in the early days of the Champlain Conference, but I never got a clear picture of his relationship to us3 or to the Judd Dayton who lived around the corner from us in Corinth. Mother was about 10 years younger than Dad and was not married until about 244. There was no abundance of people for mates – especially of vitally Christian ones. Rurals spread the Gospel with the Bible and Hurlbut’s Story of the Bible5 – and a concordance. I don’t know if it was early enough to have made much effect on my parents – except I was told that Mom’s Dad could read only the Bible, and that Dad quit school in the 7th grade when the teacher got far enough into the arithmetic book that she turned back into the part they already had. Mother finished the 8th grade, I think. I think Dad had a fairly good ability to handle intellectual concepts, but worked day and night and didn’t have too much relief or encouragement. Mom was faithful with the Bible and Hurlbut. She dreamed about being a teacher. She was practiced and helpful in spiritual matters and carried her end of the load.
DFH: How did Wilber and Jessie Belle meet?
WIB: I don’t know how the parents met. I suppose in the small community the few people had contacts. I remember once that Mother got to thinking that Dad was a “decent man” that was worth considering. If the standard was respect for virginity, the field was not very broad. If I understand correctly, both of my parents were patiently waiting longer than usual to find someone that they could trust. And they were both more spiritual in their choices than their brothers and sisters. I don’t know how deeply spiritual both of my parents were at the time, but they did cling to the standards of pure marriage, as far as I know, though not all brothers and sisters benefited by the same convictions.
DFH: It is said that his occupations included farmer, woodsman and laborer at International Paper Co. Can you elaborate on his work life?
WIB: Farming and cutting wood were natural things for people who didn’t have time or inclination to escape the hard work that they grew up with. So Dad sharpened his skills and worked real hard to make out with thrift to get ahead as he could, and the cash crop was cutting wood. After he’d get up and do the chores, he’d wade through the snow with his double-bladed axe to a wood lot and cut down and cut up the wood in 4 ft. lengths split and piled in 4×8 piles. Then he’d hurry back through the snow to do the evening chores. If he had good luck, he probably made 50 cents for his day’s work. Some of the money he later gave to help my education was probably saved from his wood cutting.
As the family grew, he finally thought he would venture to move to Corinth and see if he could better things for himself and the family. So he bought a lot down in Palmer Falls and bought a load of cut and prepared lumber from Sears and Roebuck and put it together in a house that we lived in for a year or two until he decided to sell out and get a house that he fixed up in downtown Corinth. He made more money at the Paper Mill but still economy was needed and he worked at odd jobs and raised potatoes and vegetables. He found the tour work exhausting because when he was home in daylight, he worked all the time and he couldn’t bear to work at night cooped up over a pulp machine. So he worked on the woodyard at 42 cents an hour for many years. I used to cash his weekly checks for $20.16 less 25 cents for insurance or $19.91. So he kept working on neighbors’ yards and gardens and raised potatoes, etc. to get a little extra money to put into the family of 5 children and the bank. Dad worked in the woodyard at the mill until he was too old. Then for years he cleaned up offices and recreation facilities until about 80. Finally the mill thought they couldn’t justify keeping him employed. So they let him go and gave his job to three younger men. Finally, at nearly 87, when his body lay in state at the little Corinth house, an amazing number of people came by to express their respect for him and his family. Even the Catholic priest said more complementary things than Dad ever testified to verbally in Church.
DFH: What were his and Jessie Belle’s education?
WIB: He took advantage of the school system until in the seventh grade he ran out of the part of the arithmetic book that the teacher could handle. When she turned back to the earlier part of the book, he figured he had better use of his time. Mother faithfully finished the eighth grade. She appears to have liked school and expressed her desire to be a teacher. But there was little opportunity, especially when 3 of the 4 parents were already dead before such decisions were possible.
DFH: Did he ever have a car? A driver’s license? How did he get around?
WIB: No, Dad never had a car in his own possession. When Dad was in his 60’s, Mom and I thought about getting a cheap used car to go where the bicycle wouldn’t take us. But when I decided to sample college, that’s where the money went. Chop and Chip had cars but they were seldom at home any more for convenience of their cars. So we walked, rode bicycles or used public transportation or friends. And after the first year in college, I learned to hitch-hike until I was married and had to get a car to go to South Dakota to teach in Wessington Springs Junior College in the dust bowl days.
No, Dad never had a driver’s license. Born in 1870, he probably wouldn’t have needed a license when he was young. And the 5 orphans were probably slow getting where they needed or could afford cars. I don’t know when horse and buggy came into their lives. But it must have at least by the time of Dad’s marriage at age 34. At least, I remember tales of horse and sleigh rides which one of the first babies was dumped into a snowdrift, and other incidents of farming with a horse called Pontiac. Probably Dad disposed of the horse and buggy when he moved to town when I was about 2 – 78 years ago. At least, I have no memory of seeing the horse. And I do remember a favored anecdote of an event that took place probably before I was born. Dad had got down to Greenwich – about 40 miles south of Hadley Hill to help Aunt Jennie (then Roach) on the farm. In the days of barter, or exchange of gifts, they gave him a heifer to take back to Hadley Hill. Whatever strain it may have been on his “Dayton ingenuity” Dad saw only one way to get the heifer home. He tied a rope to the heifer and took off on foot for the 40 miles. As he passed through one of the towns on the way, someone rebuked him for forcing the beast to trot so far. His response was that he wasn’t forcing the heifer. She was forcing him. So far as I know, Dad never bought a car or applied for a license. But he must have had a horse or horses that could meet the rural needs of the family.
DFH: Did he have any debts or mortgage?
WIB: If Dad ever had debts or mortgages, it was probably before my days or memory. I don’t know how he came to live in the old Dayton Place after his marriage. Uncle Delbert had apparently left the area to make his fortunes elsewhere. I’ve heard tales of his settling a while in Florida in a bean patch that later became a city. And he apparently died in Cedar Ridge, Iowa, where I attended the funeral of his only daughter, Ida. Jim never did marry. I saw Jim as an old man living on the farm in Greenwich with widowed Jenny. Aunt Carrie married Dee Harris of Corinth. They apparently lived a fugal and successful life on a farm in the town of Day – west of West Hadley Hill. They had one son who died in his youth. So Dad was the last and most fruitful successor of the Charles Dayton – grandfather.
DFH: Was he a hunter or fisherman?
WIB: So far as I know Dad was not a hunter or a fisherman. Though I am his only son who was content to miss deer season every year, Dad and I were otherwise occupied.
DFH: Did he have any personal interests other than gardening?
WIB: It is hard for me to report on Dad’s other interests. I never saw Dad until he was nearly 50 and by that time his interests were pretty well fixed on the survival or development of life and the welfare of his children. His interests broadened as his children scattered and broadened their interests and capacities. Basically his interests were people, I think.
DFH: Did Jessie have any unusual talents or interests?
WIB: Jessie had a happier childhood with more parental helps. She took the lead in many aspects of parenting and leadership. Though she was very aware of professional limitations, she had a lot of practical wisdom that made her a good counselor and disciplinarian. She saved a lot with her abilities as cook and homemaker and seamstress. She never lost her interest in people and her desire to be a teacher – though she never had the opportunity for professional training. Her spiritual example and discipline were more effective and stable than most.
DFH: You and all your brothers and sister have/had a very strong Christian faith and spiritual daily walk. What was the extent of your parents spiritual guidance and training?
WIB: The faithfulness and consistency of the emphasis on spiritual values and rightness of obedience to God was a strength. The only alternative to holiness was hell , and we didn’t want that. And a part of the obedience was to attend all the services where these things were emphasized. Whatever differences existed in the prevailing interpretations of the gospel; we had no doubt of the essentials of the gospels. The influence of the home was always solidly for the gospel.
DFH: What church(es) did they attend?
WIB: The Corinth Wesleyan Church was about my only memory of home influence. For a while Dad and, I guess, Mom felt less than fully satisfied with Corinth Wesleyan. But instead of forsaking it, they mostly added Hadley – 5 miles away. So I went to Sunday School, Preaching Service, and Class Meeting in the morning at Corinth, the same three on Sunday afternoon at Hadley, and back to Corinth for Young Peoples Prayer Service, Young Peoples Meeting and the Evening Preaching Service. That was normally only nine hours and travel time and altar services. But most of the time we were served only 6 or 7 hours at Corinth – except for special Revival Services. But on the whole the church life was positive and helpful.
DFH: Did either Wilber or Jessie Belle have a favorite hymn and/or Bible verse(s).
WIB: I don’t seem to be able to recall favorite hymns or verses. Maybe “Standing on the Promises”, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms”, “Rock of Ages” or other “experience” hymns. Maybe Psalm 23.
DFH: Who was the family disciplinarian? What type of discipline was used? (I know – you were all too perfect to receive any discipline!)
WIB: Mother was the family disciplinarian of my memory at least. She was very conscientious and thorough about insisting on the benefits to us. If she thought misbehavior reflected a willfulness that needed to be broken, she would not “spare the rod and spoil the child.” The only specific memory I have of the “rod” was when Mom took a leather belt and gave me a little lacing. She was terribly mortified and apologized when she discovered that there was a buckle on the end of the belt that contacted me. The only time I remember Dad trying to discipline me was when I must have been about 3 years old. He was in the process of moving the outdoor privy to clean it out. I was adding to his frustration by trying to use the privy. He took a little switch to correct the balance of power. I have no evil memories of either episode.
DFH: Did your parents give any financial support for your college education?
WIB: Yes, my parents did give what they could to my college education. They had helped my older sister go to the State College in Albany with what the state made available, so they squeezed $500 from their life savings to help with my college expenses at Houghton. Of course, in the 30’s, it covered vastly more of the tuition than today. And it showed their heart’s support.
DFH: Were the children given an allowance?
WIB: No, allowances for children were not so common 60 or 70 years ago as now. And money could not be spared out of the paycheck for family. I did mow lawns and peddle papers about 7 years to save about $400 from which I was refunded about $300 after the bank failed. That was largely what made college possible.
DFH: Wilber seemed like a very serious, quiet man. What was his temperament like?
WIB: Yes, Dad was a serious and quiet man. The frustrations and agonies of the parentless and deprived youth cast a shadow over his adult life that burst out in spells of melancholy and despondency. This was a great burden to Mom and a great pain to Dad. But, otherwise he was of a good disposition and a good citizen and church member.
DFH: Describe Jessie Belle’s temperament.
WIB: Mom was well balanced in temperament. She was concerned about the problems of others and tried hard to help, but she mostly kept her balance and was kind and understanding. Her friends and relatives often sought her out for advice.
DFH: Are any of Jessie Belle’s cooking recipes still around?
WIB: I doubt if there are many of Mom’s recipes around. She mostly cooked by memory and instinct. I can’t remember whether she used a cookbook or file. She did make delicious meals for healthy appetites, but it is hard to measure a dash of salt a bit of something else as she remembered it.
[EDITORS NOTE: What about the blueberry grunt? This was a blueberry muffin about 1 ½ feet in diameter and about 6 inches high. It was made with a dough that was probably like a Bisquick. It makes me hungry just thinking about it! Thanks for that one grandma!]
DFH: Jessie had a life-threatening illness and then lived a normal life span. Tell me about it!
WIB: Yes, Mom had ailing health for a long time which she mostly called Female Trouble, which I got the impression that it dated to some extent from Chip’s difficult birth – her abdomen opened clear through. For many years she had a colostomy, but was put back together for 2 or more decades of mature living. I think that cancer developed in the need for surgery until it became necessary.
DFH: How would you describe Wilber and Jessie’s intellect? Dad (Paul Dayton) always talks about “Dayton Ingenuity.”
WIB: It is hard to describe the intellect of my parents. I think they both functioned pretty well in the essentials of life. They make the best of the situations that overtake them and make life worth living. They recognize their shortcomings and lack of opportunities. But they stick to their convictions and never give up. They didn’t have all of the stimulation or opportunities of our day, but were able to cope with life as they saw it. And they survived in spite of the difficulties and made possible a better chance for our generations. And they kept the faith and, I believe, made it to heaven. They must have been smarter than a lot of godless people who aren’t wise unto salvation. Given the chance, Dad could probably do better with abstract theory and Mom might be more practical. But I appreciate both. Maybe that’s what Paul means by “Dayton Ingenuity”-the ability to triumph over circumstances and “do it anyway.”
Wilber and Edna Dayton
DFH: Did Wilber ever talk about his parents?
WIB: No, I don’t remember Dad ever talking about his parents. I think they died too early to have the impact they probably desired upon the children. And if the statement I’ll quote is true and not misunderstood that Rev. James Dayton is an ancestor of Chop and me, the early death of grandfather Charles Dayton may have stifled the Christian influence from James Dayton on the development of the orphans (including Dad).
DFH: Are there any family stories or family lore that need to be handed down to the next generation?
WIB: I don’t know if there are family stories or family lore that I know that future generations should hear. Would the accounts of Dad’s trotting the heifer home – 40 miles – by “Dayton Ingenuity” be worthy? Or would you be more interested in Uncle Chop’s engaging in a mile race of swimming in the Hudson River at Corinth as a young man? He won third place. How many finished? Three. But he accomplished his goal. A work-horse completing the race with play-boys who lived in the water.
DFH: Thank you for your candid answers. I can’t wait until I see them again and thank them for my Dayton heritage.
1(b. 1916 – d. 1999)
2 He was orphaned March 17, 1883
3 He was 1st cousin twice removed from Wilber Sr. He was a Wesleyan Methodist Minister in the late 19th century. (b.1820-d.1892)
4August 31, 1904
5Hurlbut’s Stories of the Bible was used by Jessie Belle to teach her children. The book was inherited by Paul Dayton and has now been handed down to Stephen Dayton, and designated for his son Sam.
INTRODUCTION: At our Dayton Family Reunion in 1998, Shirley Bortner, Flossie [Dayton] Denton’s daughter, brought a suitcase full of her mother’s family history, genealogical notes and photographs. This story, written by Flossie, was among her many notes was the following manuscipt:
On August 31, 1904, Wilber Thomas Dayton, son of Charles Erastus and Nancy Goodnow Dayton, brought home his bride, Jessie Belle White, daughter of Alexander and Anna Maria [Flansburg] White. Wilber and Jessie Belle had just been married in a wedding ceremony at the home of the bride’s parents, who were living on the Lawton farm (now Madison place) on Hadley Hill. The groom was 33 years old; the bride 24.
Wilber and his brother James had been keeping “bachelor’s hall” on the Dayton homestead which had been established by their grandfather, Henry, son of David Dayton, one of the first white settlers in the town of Hadley. The house is no longer there. It burned several years ago, and the area has been divided into several portions. The caretaker’s house now occupies the place where the original house stood.
Wilber and Jessie Belle began their married life in the house built by Henry, while James took the land on the opposite side of the road and lived in a small one room house. Later another small house was moved to the property. Eventually the 2 buildings were combined. As a child, I remember seeing Uncle Jim’s bed which was composed partly of ropes. (NOTE: Now in the possession of Mark Humbert). He lived there until the death of his brother-in-law, Thomas Roach. Then he went to Greenwich to help his sister, Jennie Dayton Roach, run her farm. He died there at the age of 71.
Jessie Belle and Wilber boarded the schoolteacher the year following their marriage. Her name was Gertrude Austin; hence the middle name of their first child, Flossie Gertrude, born July 19, 1905, who heard from early childhood that she was to be a teacher. I (Flossie) was the last Dayton to be born on the old homestead. About 3 years later the place was sold to Frank Ramsey, who had married my maternal grandmother, Anna Maria Flansburg White, widow of Alexander White. The later had died of a heart attack while plowing his garden on the Lawton place. So my maternal grandmother moved to the house which had been home to my paternal grandparents and great grandparents.
In 1908 Wilber, Jessie Belle and daughter Flossie, moved to Lake Luzerne, where we lived in part of the Morton house. The large rock over which it stood is still visible on Main Street in Lake Luzerne. I believe mother wanted to be near to a doctor as her second confinement approached. At my birth she had been attended only by a midwife named Mrs. Goodnow. Charles Alexander was born May 4,1908, in Lake Luzerne.
The next winter found us living on Hadley Hill again. This time we were staying at the Kennedy place while dad cut wood for Wm Garner, who own a wood lot nearby. We were living there when the fire broke out on West Mt. My earliest recollection is of spending a night with a neighbor family while the men were fighting fire. Mother and baby Charles were there too. I believe we were at the home of Alford Stewart, who lived on the road that now leads to the fire tower trail. About 1909 mother and dad bought the Lawton place, which, as a bride, mother had left in 1904. I remember the pretty pink locust shrubs that adorned the front of the house and the swing that hung from the butternut tree. My second brother, Chester Arthur, was born on the Lawton place January 6, 1910. When it became apparent that confinement was eminent, dad hitched the horse to the cutter and drove five miles to Luzerne to get Dr. Thompson. The latter waited to eat a warm breakfast before starting out in the mid-winter snow storm. In the meantime, mother was having difficulty. Injuries suffered at this time affected her health for many years.
Mother did not send me to school until I was nearly 7 years old. She taught me some things at home and encouraged me to sew. We children were brought up on Bible stories. Each time that I memorized a Bible verse, mother would make a garment for my doll. My first school days were spent in a little one room schoolhouse in the East Hadley district. It was toward the end of that term when we moved that summer to Pine Street, Palmer Falls, now part of Corinth. I entered the 1st grade in the Palmer Ave. school at the age of 7.
Our parents had bought 3 contiguous lots, each 50 ft. by 150 ft, on top of the hill at the lower end of Pine Street. Dad built a small barn in which we lived for a few weeks until the house was habitable. Alon Smith built the house following a blueprint made by mother. Dad painted it pearl grey. However, it is not that color now, and it has been enlarged. It stands at the top of the hill on the right side of Pine Street, as one travels from the mill toward the outskirts of the village.
After working two years unloading wood from the train at the mill, dad longed to get back to farm work. So we sold the house on Pine Street and moved to the Angell District where he took care of Harry Shorey’s farm for about 6 months, Sept. to March. Charles and I attended a one room school taught by Mina Angell. I thought she was perfect. One day at recess the girls were discussing what they wanted to be when grown up. I said, “I want to be just like Miss Angell.” That pleased the teacher. Miss Angell later taught the 6th grade at Corinth school. Finally, she married George Peck and lived in Schenectady. She is buried in the cemetery on the Angell farm.
In March 1914 we moved back to Hadley Hill. Our parents had bought the Gailey place, located between Uncle Will White’s farm and the Gilbert place. In recent years the Gailey farm belonged to the late Mr. Nordmere, so Charles and I and eventually Chester attended the East Hadley Hill school. The teachers for the next few years were Walter Moore, Ethel Parker, Clara Burnham, Blanche Earls, and Miss Sullivan. In 1918, I went to Lake Luzerne where I tried the Regents Exams so that I could be admitted to high school. When Miss Burnham was teaching on Hadley Hill, she gave me private organ lessons for twenty-five cents each.
While we were living on the Gailey place, Frank Ramsey, my step-grandfather, died. So, my grandmother came to live with us. She persuaded us to spend the summer of 1916 at her farm, which was the old Dayton homestead. We did not move our furniture. One day, as grandma was working in her garden, she told me that there was a cemetery up in the field. She said some people who used to own that farm were buried there. Evidently, she did not know they were my great-grandparents. My father must have known, but he did not hear our conversation. Besides, he did not do much talking. He was very busy trying to earn a living for his growing family. I never knew until about 50 years later whose graves were up there in the field. Imagine my surprise to learn that my great grandparents were buried there.
That was the summer the tornado crossed the valley in front of the house, making a path through the woods and removing a part of Uncle Alex White’s barn roof. He was living at the “vly”, later known as Bell Brook Club. Chester caught his first fish that summer. He was fishing in Dayton Creek across the road from grandma’s house. “I got him! I got him!” he yelled.
We attended Sunday school and worship services in the East Hadley Hill schoolhouse. Billy Green’s wife was the minister, but Billy preached sometimes. He was also the organist, playing a portable organ donated by Mr. Ripley. Rev. Sarah and Mr. Green held services Sunday morning in the West District schoolhouse. In the afternoon they came to the East District. No doubt they held an evening service in the Wesleyan church at Stony Creek. They lived in the parsonage in that village. While we were living at grandma’s house, we were about halfway between the 2 schoolhouses; so some Sundays I attended services at both places.
In the fall we went back to the Galey place, taking grandma with us. She was present for the birth of Wilber Thomas Jr. in October 29, 1916. On December 3rd she married Warren Dingman and went back to her own home. Nobody on Hadley Hill owned a car until about 1917. Uncle Will White was the first resident to buy an automobile. It was a Ford touring car. Although we had no car, we sometimes left home for a day or two. Conklingville, where mother’s sister Bertha Hurd and her family lived, was only about 4 miles away, if one liked to hike, using an abandoned road.
Occasionally dad would hook up the horse and take us up to West Day to visit his sister, Carrie and her husband, Dee Harris. Aunt Carrie wouldn’t sit down to eat until everyone was served. She would insist that you would put plenty of homemade butter on those delicious pancakes and then pour on maple syrup. Her neighbors were impressed by her gas refrigerator. That was before electrification reached their area. I was impressed by the Victrola and the Uncle Josh records. The separator amazed me too. Uncle Dee would come from the barn with milk, pour it into the top of the separator, and turn the crank. Cream and milk would come out of separate spouts! Aunt Carrie raised colts and helped with the barn chores. I thought it was strange to see her wearing men’s shoes.
I remember a trip to Greenwich to visit dad’s other sister, Jennie Dayton Roach and her husband Tom. We took this trip while we were living on Pine Street the first time. Dad, mother, Charles, Chester and I took the bus to Saratoga Springs, where we boarded another bus that took us to Schuylerville. Then we walked about 2 miles crossing the river to Thompson. From there a trolley took us to Greenwich. Then we walked two miles to Aunt Jennie’s farm. My new shoes skinned my heel; so I took them off and walked with bare feet. I remember being impressed by Aunt Jennie’s strutting peacock.
The summer of 1918 we lived on the Charley Kennedy place, which was adjacent to the other Kennedy place where we had resided when Charles was a baby. Dad had sold the Galey farm and was helping Frank Wood do the work on the Ripley farm (formerly Kennedy place). In the fall we moved back to Pine Street, Palmer Falls, so I could go to high school. We repossessed the house we thought we had sold. However, in less than two years we sold it again and moved up town to 11 Mechanic Street, where we were closer to the school, church, and stores. There Paul Delbert was born June 29, 1923. He grew up in that house. When he married Ruth Carter, the newlyweds set up housekeeping upstairs, while mother and dad lived downstairs. Paul and Ruth lived there until they built the home on West Mechanic St.
In my senior year of high school, Mother made arrangements for me to attend the teacher training class in Hudson Falls. I was to live at the home of the Seventh Day Adventist minister. During the summer, it was learned that I had been awarded a state scholarship which would provide $100 each year for four years of college. Harris Crandall, the high school principal, persuaded Mother to let me attend State College at Albany. Mother accompanied me to the city and found a suitable place for me to live.
My first teaching assignment was in Richmondville, where I taught Latin, History and Civics. In my second year there, my health broke down and I returned home. The next September I began teaching in the West district on Hadley Hill, living with the Burnhams. After three years, I started teaching at Porters Corners, but was unable to finish the term. Much of that year I spent with Mildred and George Archer in Hadley. In September 1932, I began teaching at Wolf Lake, living at home and driving my car to work. In February 24, 1934, I married George Denton. At his request, I resigned my teaching position.
My parents continued to live at 11 Mechanic St until July 18, 1957, when dad died at the age of 86. The following autumn mother went to live with Chester and his wife Elizabeth on Walnut Street. Mother passed away there in January 1958 at the age of 77. Although she had a colostomy in her 60’s, the cause of death was a stroke. For some time, her vision had been poor because of glaucoma.
I have mentioned my 4 brothers only incidentally. However, each has a big place in my heart. In their preteens, Chop and Chip took me over the cliff and down to their secret cave by the river. In later years, they transported me to Hadley Hill when I was teaching there. I remember those walks across the river and above the dam with Charles and Gladys. When I was 19, Chester and I rode bicycles to Greenwich to visit Aunt Jennie and Uncle Jim. Chester taught me to recognize various trees and shrubs. Wilbur was my right-hand man, always doing errands for me at a time when I was suffering from what I now recognize as agoraphobia. Later I was amazed at his scholastic attainments. Paul, who was nearly 18 years younger than I, was my baby brother. I admired his blue eyes and rosy cheeks. One day he surprised me by his dexterity in getting my automobile tire on the rim when I was unable to do so. These 4 fellows, were, and are, quite different in appearance and talents, but so alike in Christian character.
Before she was married, and at the age of 24, Jessie was named to be Sunday School superintendent of the newly organized Hadley Sunday School in District 4 on Hadley Hill. This district was a one-room schoolhouse located toward West Mountain from the general populace at the top of Hadley Hill. Her daughter, Flossie [Dayton] Denton, taught there years later. Jessie’s appointment to such an important position of leadership in the local church is noteworthy. In the latter half of the 19th century until the time of prohibition, the Wesleyan Methodist Church was a progressive denomination, leading the way in woman’s rights. Woman’s Rights convention, organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, convened July 19-20, 1848, in the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York and was attended by 200 women. Stanton joined forces with Susan B. Anthony two years later, and the rest is history. In nearly every other protestant denomination, women were not allowed in church teaching and preaching because of strict adherence to Paul’s instruction in I Timothy 3:11-12, well into the 20th century. My denomination, Christian Reformed, is still struggling with this issue. The Wesleyan Methodist Church was very progressive in those days. From their inception to the late 1800’s, the Wesleyan Methodists were at the cutting edge of woman’s rights, including woman’s rights in church leadership positions. Jessie White was an example of this. Jessie [White] Dayton began her “ministry” in 1904 and continued in church teaching and leadership positions into the 1940’s.
Jessie’s commitment to her church was commendable. The Wilber Dayton family attended Sunday morning worship at the Corinth Wesleyan church. Then they were at the Hadley Wesleyan Methodist Church, five miles from home, by the time church started at 2 pm. After church was over in Hadley, they hurried back to Corinth to attend evening service. Talk about Sunday being a day of rest! Not for the Wilber T Dayton family. It was likely a day of stress. Since grampa didn’t have a car, it’s not clear how they got to Hadley and back. They may have walked, or someone from Hadley may have picked them up. There was no time for the traditional Sunday dinner after church.
During the 1998 reunion, we photographed the offspring of each of the children of Wilber and Jessie Belle Dayton who attended the reunion. The following is the Dr. Wilber T “Wib” Dayton, Jr. family.
Dr, Wilber Thomas Dayton, Jr. was the fourth child born to Wilber and Jessie Belle Dayton on Hadley Hill in 1916. His sibling pal, Chester, was gone from the Dayton home when Wilber was 13 years old. His new “pal” Paul was born when Wilber was seven years old. So Wilber never had a sibling close to his age as he was growing up. Paul, seven years his junior, looked up to his big brother as hero and role model. Wib took the role seriously and was always very kind and loving to his baby brother.
I had a chance to witness this love and affection for each other in the final chapter of Wib’s life. Two weeks before Wib passed away [Nov10, 1999], I took Paul and his 2nd wife to visit Wilber at his nursing home in Macon, GA. By then, Wib’s dementia was quite advanced, and he and Paul had a great deal of difficulty communicating. Then it happened. They started talking about Wilber’s Columbia bicycle, which he used for his newspaper route. His trademark smile returned for what was probably the final time and a twinkle returned in what were moments before, dead, lifeless eyes. Dad had inherited Wib’s newspaper route and bicycle, and that common bond was with them till the end. For all that they had accomplished in their lives, they were still young boys in spirit. The handing of the paper route from accomplished to novice had cemented a lifelong admiration for each other.
One of the highlights of the Paul Dayton family was a Christmas journey to Wilber’s home in Wilmore KY about 1958. Our two families spent about two or three days together…brother with brother…cousins with cousins…wife/aunt/mother with the same. It was a vacation we never forgot and talked about every Christmas. On our Kentucky Christmas morning, we woke up to a Christmas stocking for each of us hung on the mantle. We kept those stockings, and my mom, Ruth, hung them on our mantle every Christmas afterwards. The stockings weren’t the gaudy style which you buy at a department store. They were lovingly hand-made by Aunt Donna… she was family…Dayton family. Good memories of a loving, caring family.
Wilber excelled academically for his entire academic life (1st grade to post graduate studies). At his high school graduation, not only was he valedictorian of his class, but he accomplished it in three years. College was no different. Other educational, academic pursuits and professional assignments were the same. EXCEL, EXCEL, EXCEL. A person could be very generous with superlatives and kudos when describing Dr. Wilber Thomas Dayton. I will let the following three-page resume speak for itself. NOTE: Notice the spelling of College in the very last word of the resume. I ALWAYS thought my uncle was academically perfect, but he did make an academic error at least once in his life. He spelled college Collette on his resume.
If you have questions about anything Dayton, or you have Dayton trivia, please write. Can you stump me?
Last week’s quiz… What was the food which was a staple at the yearly Wilber and Jessie family Christmas get together?
Answer: OYSTER STEW. Gramma made it year after year, except once! Here is what Paul [my dad] had to say about it, “We always had oyster soup back then. In fact one year, Chop was coming from Vermont, he was preaching over there then, he could smell the oyster soup, and it turned out when he got here we had chicken.” I’d like to think, that it was a centuries – old Dayton tradition to have oyster stew on Christmas Day. Steve and I discovered that Samuel, Abraham and Henry Dayton* were merchants of sea food products. They all lived by the sea on Long Island and were whalers. It would have been natural for them to eat seafood …perhaps a hearty oyster stew. This tradition would have passed through five generations to get to gramma Jessie Belle. Improbable, but why else would a back woods couple, far from the sea, be eating oysters?
*The descendancy from Samuel to Wilber’s children is as follows [Samuel, Abraham, Henry, David Sr., David Jr., Henry, Charles, Wilber Sr, [Wilber and Jessie’s children Flossie, Charles, Chester, Wilber, Jr., Paul].
This week’s quiz: Do you all know who your great-grampa Dayton is/was? If not, write me and I’ll tell you (tell me who your dad and grampa were and I’ll tell you your Dayton grampas back 8-10 generations (all the way back to the first grampa on American soil in 1639). You can write privately or for inclusion in the newsletter, whichever you prefer.