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Our Family, A Legacy of Twelve Generations

Written by Emily Standish, Produced by Family Heirloom Arts This richly illustrated collection of family stories highlights material from the Civil War up to present day life on the family farm in rural upstate New York. Highlighting stories of perseverance, dedication and hard work, this twelve-generation tale brings to life the ancestral stories of early America and explores the future of family farms in America. Written with heart and humor, this book honors the family relationships and core values that have been passed on from generation to generation.

Written by Emily Standish, Produced by Family Heirloom Arts
This richly illustrated collection of family stories highlights material from the Civil War up to present day life on the family farm in rural upstate New York. Highlighting stories of perseverance, dedication and hard work, this twelve-generation tale brings to life the ancestral stories of early America and explores the future of family farms in America. Written with heart and humor, this book honors the family relationships and core values that have been passed on from generation to generation.

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Our Family

A Legacy of Twelve Generations

Emily Stewart Standish


Produced by Family Heirloom Arts

www.FamilyHeirloomArts.com

Portland, Oregon

Emily Stewart Standish: Writer, Researcher, Photography Editor

Lisa Kagan: Director, Text Editor, Photography Editor, Book Designer

Connie Lenzen: Genealogist

Emily García: Typographer, Design and Production Assistant

Joseph Webb: Digital Photography Artist

Julie Zander: Copy Editor

Copyright © 2012

Emily Stewart Standish

All rights reserved. Reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents without permission is prohibited.

Printed by Stevens Printing, Portland, Oregon.

Book binding by Grossenbacher Bros., Inc.

Front Cover Caption:

A collection of images celebrating the Stewart family throughout the generations

Cover design by Lisa Kagan.


This collection of stories was written by Emily Stewart Standish. A

portion of the content for this book is based on oral history interviews

of Richard Stewart, which were conducted by Emily Standish from

2010–2012. Source material for this book including letters, journals and

documents were collected from the Stewart family archives.

McBeth family homestead, built 1850


This book is dedicated to my parents and grandparents

in honor of their gifts and sacrifices.

May these stories inspire the generations to come.


Contents

Introduction

by Emily Standish

ix

Chapter 1

Origin Stories: The Hart,

Merrell & Green Families

3

Chapter 2

Origin Stories: The McBeth,

Miller & Stewart Families

17

Chapter 3

Alida Green

& E.P. Hart

39

Chapter 4

Peggy Hart

57

Chapter 5

Eldon Stewart

73

S vi S


Chapter 6

Farm Seasons

81

Chapter 7

Eldon Stewart

Later Years

89

Chapter 8

Three Generations

Living Together

97

Chapter 9

Three Women

Longing

101

Chapter 10

Catskill Chicken

105

Chapter 11

Emily, Richard

& Nancy

111

Chapter 12

One Sentence:

A Journey

135

Chapter 13

All Man’s Land

139

Appendix

Ancestral Charts

143

S vii S


Introduction

by Emily Stewart Standish

“The further backward you can look,

the further forward you are likely to see.”

Winston Churchill

I believe it is important to know where we have

come from, helping us understand how we have gotten

to where we are today. For my family and me,

three hundred years have passed since our Puritan

ancestors settled in Massachusetts Bay, and today our

home in Portland, Oregon, is three thousand miles

away from the family dairy farm in New York State.

With the current geographic, cultural, and digital

divide, our life here seems a long way from the place

I will forever think of as “home.”

Yet as I started to delve into the process of creating

this book, I began asking myself, “Are we really

so far from our roots?” Researching and writing our

family stories has reminded me over and over that my

ancestors are alive in me, and in my children, nieces,

and nephews, no matter how different our lives may

be. I carry the spirits of my grandmother, Alida, and

my mother, Peggy, with me each day. I am constantly

humbled and forever thankful for the legacy that

they have provided without ever having expected

anything in return.

When I was young, the stories of the past were

told over and over during family gatherings. I

remember snippets and sentiments of some of them,

but did not ask the questions then that I would ask

now. I wish I had listened more closely, or better yet,

that I had fired up our old reel-to-reel tape recorder

and captured the sound of their voices and their

stories. Over the years stacks of family photos, letters,

and memorabilia have been bound with string and

stashed in boxes at the farm, saved by our mothers,

aunts, and grandmothers who probably suspected that

someday we would look to the past in search of ourselves.

In the years since their deaths, family members

who shared a reverence for our family stories have

kept these treasures safe.

For the future family history seekers among us

who are still young and pursuing other endeavors, I

wish for you a glimpse at not only our stories, but our

faces. Look into the eyes of the men and women coming

to life throughout these pages, and you will see

yourselves emerging miraculously out of the generations

of Stewarts, Harts, McBeths, and Millers. We

are all here in this book, bound together by our shared

stories and the lineage we carry with us as our family

continues to grow from generation to generation.

S ix S


Our Family

A Legacy of Twelve Generations


chapter 1

Origin Stories

The Hart, Merrell & Green Families

When the Puritan settler Stephen Hart boarded the ship Lyon on June 2, 1632, he set

sail for the New World with big dreams of religious freedom and the prospect of

land ownership when he arrived. Lyon was owned by a group of Puritan investors and chartered

by Reverend Thomas Hooker to bring settlers to the New World. Stephen Hart could

not have predicted the thousands of descendants who would claim him as the first of their

family to inhabit what was to become the United States of America.

The Hart Family,

Settling in the new world

At age twenty-five, Stephen had simple dreams. He

wanted to settle into a life of farming with his wife

and family, and worship with other like-minded men.

Stephen Hart is my eleventh great-grandfather.

He was born in Braintree, Essex County, England, in

1605. While still in England, he married his young

sweetheart and they had two children before they set

off across the Atlantic. They landed at Massachusetts

Bay in 1632, and they set up their first home in

Cambridge, Massachusetts. Just a few years later, in

1636, Harvard University would be founded by other

Puritan ministers in the same village.

Stephen and his family went on to follow

Reverend Thomas Hooker to Newtown, Connecticut,

which later became known as Hartford, Connecticut.

At that time, the entire region was inhabited by the

Tunxis Indians and Stephen Hart was among the

first hundred white men to settle in the area. He was

hunting on Talcott Mountain near Hartford when he

glimpsed the fertile Farmington River Valley. Along

with a few dozen other residents of Hartford, he

moved his growing family to the Farmington River

Valley and helped to build a town on the east side of

the river. The town was incorporated as Farmington

Facing page: Alida, Anna Merrell, Edmund Matthew,

and Stanley Hart, circa 1905

S 3 S


College, a women’s college in Columbia, Missouri.

It was a difficult decision to leave Edmund behind

in New York State while she pursued a career, so she

wrote to Edmund about the choices that she faced.

Anna ultimately decided to travel west to teach

at Stevens College but they became engaged before

she left. While there, she missed Edmund and fretted

over the distance that separated them.

I thought I would not write until I

could tell you what my decision was

which I could not determine until

I returned to Bath. I received a letter

from New York informing me of

a vacancy at Groton, New York and

I wrote to inquire but have received

no answer. When I am settled again I

will write you such long letters. And

wherever I am I shall be yours only

and forever. If I go west which will not

be this week, I will write you when to

meet me.

I have so much to say to you darling,

but I cannot say it now for I want you

to get this letter tomorrow, but your

kind heart will forgive, when my mind

is not so ill at ease I will write you a

long long letter. But now my Dearest I

must say au revoir.

Lovingly,

Your Annie

– Adapted from a letter from Anna Merrell to Edmund, written

December 20, 1869

Excerpts from Anna’s diary, Wednesday, March 13, 1872:

This is a sad day. I have not received

a letter from Edmund in over a week.

Have been asking myself over and over

again if I could give him up. I don’t see

why I feel so but it has been impressed

upon my mind for so long that this

would invalidate our engagement. God

help me to endure anything and to say,

“He leadeth me.”

Friday, March 15, 1872:

Received a letter from Edmund, a

darling little letter assuring me of his

love. I think love is the dearest trait of

a human character. My mind is at rest.

Thursday, March 21, 1872:

How the time is passing. Soon the

time will come that is to make me

happy or miserable, happy, I think.

Precious dear!

After a long and passionate courtship, Anna left

her teaching duties at Stevens and returned by train

to Hornell, where she and her beloved Edmund were

married on September 2, 1872. Two years later, they

had a baby boy who they named Edmund Percival

Hart, and they called him “Percy.” They settled in

Hornell, New York, in a big house with a shady front

porch at Number 19 Ravine Street. Edmund Percival

was my grandfather.

Anna and Edmund had another son, Stanley, several

years later. Edmund and Anna were active in the

S 7 S


Marriage certificate, recognizing the marriage of Edmund Hart and Anna Merrell, September 2, 1872

S 8 S


Robert McBeth

S 22 S


A Collection of Civil War Letters

Robert we were sorry to hear that

you are wounded but we are very

thankful it was no worse, that when

the rebel bullets was permitted to come

so near you that a life has been spared.

It shows you and us that The Great

Preserver is ever near. He that watches

over the fall of the sparrow will watch

over you and we hope bring you back

home to us in peace and safety.

– Adapted from a letter to Robert McBeth from his mother,

Mary Miller McBeth, April 22, 1865

It was joyful tiding for us to hear

that Petersburg and Richmond was

ours and that Lee had surrendered but

oh how soon there was a change from

joy to sorrow. Those came a sound as

word on the winds that our President

is Dead, felled by the hands of an

assassin. We was at your grandpa’s

when your Aunt Jane came in and

asked us if we had seen the flag half

masted. She said that Mr. Lincoln was

Dead. We have heard that the murderer

of our President was surrounded

but they could not take him alive.

They were obliged to shoot him.

– Adapted from a letter to Robert McBeth from his mother,

Mary Miller McBeth, April 22, 1865

Your pa received the papers that you

sent him yesterday. We hope that you

will write to us as soon as you receive

this and tell us whether you expect to

be returned to your regiment or to be

returned home. We cannot see why

you would be sent home. We have

heard that Sherman has made a bad

move which has discouraged us some

but we know that He Who Rules and

ever Rules will do all things Right.

– Adapted from a letter to Robert McBeth from his mother,

Mary Miller McBeth, April 22, 1865

Dear Son,

We rejoice to hear that you escaped

with so slight a wound. We commit

you to that care which has shielded

you. You will find five dollars within.

The money you sent came all right, the

box you sent has not come yet. Write

son, your father, and let us know if you

have seen President Johnson. See all the

government officers and let us know

how they look. Write soon and send us

all the particulars of all you see.

Yours affectionately

– Adapted from a letter to Robert from his father, James McBeth,

April 24, 1865

S 23 S


Civil War letter written by Mary Miller McBeth to her son Robert

S 24 S


S 25 S


Nancy McBeth

S 28 S


Mabel Miller

S 29 S


The Stewart Family

In 1805 my great-great-great-grandparents, John

Stewart and his wife, Jane White, emigrated from

County Cavan, Ireland, to America. They settled first

in Albany, New York. Not long after they arrived,

John was taken sick and had to be hospitalized. He

was visited in the hospital by two men who were

members of the Masonic Lodge. He entrusted them

with his money for safekeeping while he was recovering

in the hospital. According to family lore, the two

men absconded with the money and he never saw

them again.

Eventually, after his recovery, John

moved his family to Argyle, Washington

County, New York, and then on to

Steuben County in 1818. They settled on

a tract of 150 acres in the tiny village of

Howard. John found land for fifty cents

per acre that he was interested in purchasing

near the village of Bath. Instead, he

eventually bought the tract in Howard for

$3.50 per acre because the Bath property

was reputed to be full of rattlesnakes.

John, known as “Bully Jack,” was reputed

to have a double row of teeth on top and

bottom, making it possible for him to bite

a shingle nail in two.

John and Jane had two known children,

Mary Jane and William. William was a

farmer until age forty-five, then studied

under a local doctor and practiced medicine

in the town of Howard until his death

in 1898. William’s wife was Susan Lucretia

Ford, a descendent of the Ford family who

had been in Massachusetts since the mid-

1600s. William and Susan had thirteen

children, four of whom died before they

were five years old. The children who survived

to adulthood were Robert, Melissa,

Mabel and Elma Miller

Matilda, Samuel Edgar, William Ford, James Hall,

Susan Jane, Olive Ada, and Fanetta. Samuel Edgar

was my great-grandfather. He married Mary Jane

Watts and they had five children. One of Edgar and

Mary Jane’s children was Jackson Lee Stewart, born

in 1882.

Mabel Miller married Jackson Lee Stewart in

1912 and they bought the sixty-three acres and the

farmhouse from Mabel’s Uncle Robert, the Civil War

veteran. On August 31, 1911, Mabel’s brother Floyd

noted in his diary, “Jack and Robert went to Bath

S 30 S


Samuel Edgar Stewart, circa 1870

S 31 S


chapter 3

Alida Green

& E.P. Hart

Alida May Green was all too familiar with leaving her loved ones behind, and, in 1901,

she stepped fearlessly onto the train in noisy, gritty Hornell, New York, traveling east

to pursue a college education. For two years she had been teaching elementary school, saving

money to finance the college classes she dreamed of attending someday. The Erie Railroad

car she boarded was bound for Providence, Rhode Island, where the Women’s College of

Brown University was just ten years young.

The first women had only begun taking classes

at Brown in 1891, though men had been matriculating

there since 1764. Brown was not the only college

educating young women at the time, but one compelling

reason brought Alida to Providence: her oldest

sister, Alice Green Carr, kept a boarding house there

for Brown University boys. Alida could live with her

sister, help with housekeeping to defray room and

board expenses, and teach night school to help pay her

college tuition. Imagine Alida stepping off the train in

a new city, beginning a course of college classes that

very few women at the time would have access to, and

living with a half-dozen college boys!

’Lida was the “baby” of her family, the eighth

child born to Luke and Olive Monroe Green in

Alfred, New York. Her arrival in 1881 came at a time

when the lives of rural families were defined by their

work, their church, their family, and their neighbors.

Even though the United States had just survived the

bloodiest and most tumultuous time in its hundredyear

history, the day-to-day lives of Alida’s family

were rarely affected by the issues of the young nation.

Instead, their daily routines were dictated by growing,

harvesting, and “putting by” enough food for a large

family to survive long, bitter-cold winters. The clothes

worn by the family were the result of spinning enough

Facing page: A collection of photos of Alida and E.P. Hart,

with a postcard of Hornell, New York

S 39 S


Card celebrating Peggy and Eldon’s engagement

Peggy and Eldon’s wedding announcement

After her graduation from college, Peggy moved

back home and began teaching home economics,

including an evening class in Canisteo, New York.

Peggy’s cousin, Wayne Crandall, was also a teacher

in the evening school. Wayne introduced Peggy to

Eldon Stewart, a young farmer who was a student

there. Wayne may have recognized qualities that both

Peggy and Eldon possessed, their curiosity about the

world and their gregarious personalities. Peggy and

Eldon dated for two years, going to movies and playing

cards with friends, sandwiched in between Eldon’s

demanding schedule of farm work. Before long my

parents, Peggy and Eldon, were engaged and had set

a wedding date for August 16, 1942. An engagement

party was held in the back yard of Peggy’s childhood

home at 153 Seneca Street, the same yard where she

and her siblings had chased fireflies years before. My

parents’ wedding was small and my mother handwrote

all the invitations to her family.

When Peggy and Eldon married, they moved into

his family home on the farm. At this same juncture,

his family home acquired electricity for the first time.

Until then my grandparents had used a generator to

create light in the evenings, but they thought that a

college-educated daughter-in-law would be expecting

electricity! They lived in the tiny upstairs of

the farmhouse with a kitchen and three bedrooms.

When several guests came for a special meal, such as

Christmas or Easter, Eldon would switch the furniture

between rooms, placing the tiny kitchen table in

a bedroom to create an actual dining room. Peggy’s

family gifted them many special household items for

their wedding, so they would have everything they

needed to set up their new home and be able to host

family and friends over the years.

Once their space was set up and settled in, Peggy

was eager to embark on the journey of becoming a

mother. Their first baby girl, Nancy, was born on

March 24, 1944, within two years of their wedding.

S 62 S


Eldon and Peggy, Easter 1941

S 63 S


chapter 5

Eldon Stewart

This story includes excerpts from the diary of my father, Eldon Stewart. He recorded entries daily when he was fifteen years old.

W

hen my father, Eldon, looked down at the bed pushed against the wall in Mrs. Day’s

hallway, he knew he would be figuring out a lot of things for himself that semester.

If he resolved to make the best of himself, it was going to be his decision. He was fifteenand-a-half

and would be a boarder at Mrs. Day’s from Sunday evening to Friday afternoon.

He would stay there from January until the end

of the school year in June. Due to the harsh winters

in upstate New York, he had to live close to school in

order to make sure he could keep up regular attendance.

After the summer he hoped he would have his

license and occasionally be able to drive himself to

school. For now though, he would sleep on this bed

in this hallway and put his few clothes in a box at the

foot of the bed.

Even though in January of 1932, the Great

Depression was still lingering and the farm needed

all the strong hands it could get, it was decided that

all the Stewart children would finish high school.

In those days in that area sustained by farming,

Sunday, January 3, 1932:

Done chores, got ready and went

to church. Leon brought me here to

Canisteo about 4:00. Went to church

again, got home about 9:00. I have my

bed in the hall at Mrs. Day’s. Resolved

that I will make the best of myself.

education was not a given. The nearby Dublin

schoolhouse, a one-room school, educated students

only through the eighth grade. Eldon’s parents, Jack

and Mabel, decided that would not be a sufficient

Facing page: Photos of Eldon Stewart

with his teenage diary entries

S 73 S


chapter 11

Emily, Richard

& Nancy

It is easy to fantasize about the idyllic life growing up on a farm, but as a young person I

rarely thought of it that way. As a teenager, I could not wait to leave that life behind.

Now, as a grown woman, I am more inclined to remember the good and filter out the parts

that I felt were confining when I was growing up. For me, up until high school, I really

enjoyed my lifestyle on the farm. I had my cats, a dog, acres to roam, fresh and plentiful

food, and cousins nearby to play with.

Emily

In one of my earliest memories of life on the farm,

I recall a litter of kittens born in my bedroom closet

when I was about three years old. The blessed event

happened while I was asleep and I heard my mother

and sister whispering and gesturing at something in

the closet. No doubt they had been watching for signs

of the impending births, and when the time came

they wanted to be there too. I awoke to their voices

and joined in to witness this miracle of life. I trace

my enduring love of cats to that moment. Later, I

adored the family cat that we simply called “Mama

Kitty,” and doted on each successive litter of kittens

she provided. I would follow her into the haymow to

the spot she had chosen to raise her litter to their own

self-sufficiency, and she would reward me by allowing

me to handle the new babies under her supervision.

I treasured my cats and a succession of dogs,

Penny, then Lady, then the last one we called Butch.

These dogs were a shaggy mix of shepherd and collie.

They were trained to dash to the upper field where the

cattle were grazing, and herd the cows to the barn at

the sound of my father clapping. They were trained in

this way because of my father’s laryngectomy, which

made him unable to call out orders for the dogs to

“go get the cows.” I tried to train them to do other

Facing page: A collection of childhood photos

of Emily, Richard, and Nancy

S 111 S

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