In His Own Words!

During the Battle of Plattsburgh Commemoration Open House at KDH, I fielded a number of questions of who Henry Delord was and how did he come to be in Plattsburgh. Due to time and people’s attention spans, I give the short version of his history, that is: Henry immigrated to the U.S. from France by way of the Caribbean; settled first near the Quaker Union in Peru; bought this house (now museum) and moved to Plattsburgh where his business interests were flourishing. Then the story usually focuses on his part in the Battle of Plattsburgh—how he and his partner William Bailey allowed the troops to buy supplies on credit in their business, the Red Store. Then we sort of skip over to the part where he went bankrupt due to the U.S. Government not making good on those I.O.U.s and consequently Henry’s house and household items being sold in a sheriff’s auction.

 

The longer story is fascinating especially since we can read it in his own words!

 

Since he left Nimes , France in 1784 at age twenty to seek his fortune in the Caribbean, Henry had no contact with his family. The following is an excerpt from a letter Henry wrote on May 14, 1820, to his sister after finally finding that she was the last of his family surviving in his homeland.   This part of the letter, written in French (Henry’s native language), documents those early events of his life as Henry saw them.   The original letters are in SUNY Plattsburgh Special Collections. The translation of the letters was done sometime in the 1990s by a dedicated Museum Volunteer, Denise Debevec. Even though Henry’s penmanship was precise, age and deterioration of paper and ink made some words unreadable/illegible.

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My dear sister,

To inform you of all what happened to me at Ste. Lucie and of the causes of these events, I start with the year 1789; the troubles and misfortunes/calamities of the revolution [French Revolution] started to be felt in the island because of the (illegible) of the National Assembly—a Colonial Assembly was elected by the inhabitants—to which Assembly I was elected every year until 1794. The island had been spared the (illegible) which were threatening it. To tell you all the (illegible), horrors and (illegible) that were perpetrated would make you blood freeze from fright and would renew for me that (illegible). It is better to pass over it in silence/to ignore them.

 

The island was conquered by the English in April of the same year [1794]—a few days after several inhabitants who were considered dangerous or (illegible) were arrested and sent to London. At that time I was chosen against my will Commissar for the district of the Old Fort, where I lived—after 6 months of peaceful possession by the British, a general rebellion occurred in the island, caused by the (illegible) of a certain Victor Hughes who had already taken over the island of Guadeloupe. At that time everything was in an appalling condition and I cannot describe you the terror and dismay which were (illegible). Arson (illegible) in the streets everywhere, the farms burning. Under these terrible calamities I was caught by those cannibals who invented (illegible) unknown to (illegible)—my properties were confiscated; I lost everything which was dear to me and was reduced to the most miserable condition—and every moment expecting to be murdered. They took the island from the English and organized it according to their ferocious system. A certain (illegible) was dispatched, from Guadeloupe to administer the island—their treasurer being sick, I was then taken away from the (illegible) of slavery I was in and put in charge of the Treasure [Treasury?].

 

In May 1796 the English under the Generals Albercromby and John Moor took the island back from these murderers. I was again detained and forced to act under General Moor.   My health being at that time very poor because of the miseries, cruelties and sufferings I had sustained—exhausted by fatigue and pain I decided to leave the island forever—which was difficult—nevertheless I was lucky enough to be granted permission upon my word of honour—that I would remain in the United States during the war which was prevailing between England and France and having accepted these conditions I left this fateful island in September 1796 and landed/docked in New York the following October.

 

Bored by the confusion which prevails in big towns, after recovering, I came to the location where I now reside there after learning about the people and the language I rented a store and in less that 16 years I was able to earn enough to look forward to returning home with at least 500,000 pounds in gold.

 

In June 1812 unfortunately a war was declared between England and this country–Plattsburgh was invaded by the English in July 1813 [Murray’s Raid]—everything was (illegible). The loss of that day was only 30,000 pounds. The English retreated. Our American government had the place fortified and garrisoned. The members in the Congress did not agree concerning the war expenses, the government had financial difficulties and was short of money. The large army we had here did not receive their pay and became (illegible). The Generals told me their difficulties and fears and I felt it my duty under so (illegible) circumstances to help them providing for the troop what was necessary. On September 11, 1814 Plattsburgh was again attacked by the English (with their hordes of savages) by land and by the waters of that Lake Champlain on which shore the city is located. The English took a part of Plattsburgh, they commandeered the house in which I am now. My loses that second time were heavier that the first time. The English were [illegible] to retreat with the loss of their fleet and the land army was [illegible]. You cannot [illegible] my dear Julie the awful events I eye-witnessed and so often, that I believe it is astonishing that I am still alive.

 

On February 10, 1815 I had [illegible] an attack of rheumatism that they feared for my life, I suffered a great deal, I was 18 months weak and convalescent to the point that I could not take care of my businesses. Thanks to God it is the only malady I suffered since in this country—since then my health has always been good. Unluckily for me during my sickness, of the troops to which I had lent so much money, half was discharged without pay—the other half was kept in service but in New Orleans. My losses during the war amount of 4000,000 pounds—what I own here is in real estate land and houses (in this town) the interest is enough, so that without being rich, we live comfortably if we are thrifty. The house we live in is ours, it is large and eminent, the garden covers about 5 acres. How happy we would be to have you and my Aunt Catherine here with us.

 

In July 1817 the President of the United States came to visit Plattsburgh. He stayed 2 days here and spent most of his time in my home. He is well learned and has an excellent heart. He is esteemed and respected like a good King. My letter is already so long. My dear Julie, that I am afraid to annoy you but let me ask you to send me a memorandum with the age of our father, mother, brothers, sisters as well as our Aunt Susan Delord—that will give me great satisfaction—would make my wife and my dear Francoise [Frances Henrietta] very happy too.

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              President James Monroe’s invitation to dine with “Judge de Lord” 

Henry’s correspondence to France began in 1819 with a letter to a judge in Nimes requesting information on his family. Early the next year, Henry was thrilled to get a letter from his sister, Julie. Over the next four years the siblings exchanged letters detailing their lives. Even Betsey wrote to her newly discovered sister-in-law, which Henry translated into French. After Henry died in 1825, Betsey continued the correspondence, when she could find someone to translate for her, with the last letter we have dated 1830. Julie died in 1832, which necessitated Frances Henrietta to hasten her wedding date in order to go to Nimes, France and collect her inheritance, as she was the last of the Delord family.

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Portrait of Henry Delord

by Abraham G.D. Tuthill

c.1818

 

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Odds & Ends

What’s In A Name – The Final Episode!

I counted over 500 roadways on a current map of the greater Plattsburgh Area (available at the Chamber of Commerce and other locations!) Comparing this to the 1877 and 1899 maps, you can see the tremendous expansion of our city. I’ve given you some of the history of the street names, but here’s some other little bits of street trivia that I call Odds & Ends.

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1907 postcard of Margaret Street, Plattsburgh, NY

Some streets are named for what or where they are

Bridge Street was called that because the main feature is the bridge. The street was first constructed on March 24, 1800. The bridge has been replaced several times.

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When the new Bridge Street Bridge opened on Nov. 11, 1930, a crowd of around 5,000 spectators turned out for a military and civic parade led by the 26th Infantry Band and 26th Infantry color Guard. A dedication ceremony featured an address by the New York State Historical Society President. A plaque was placed on the bridge to commemorate the event and the fact that the bridge was built by local artisans using local stone.

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The stone construction replaced the old steel truss bridge.  The Wonderland Theatre, the first movie house in Plattsburgh, was demolished to make way for a stone staircase leading down to a park alongside the Saranac River toward the Macdonough Monument..

Division Street got it’s name from a division of the New York Stock Exchange that set up a ticker in the late 1920s in the rear of the Witherill Hotel.

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Protection Avenue was first called Church Alley (because it connected Margaret St. to the Churches on Oak St.) It was renamed because the village police station and a number of the early volunteer Fire Companies were located there.

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Broad St was, well, broad (wide). Nathaniel Platt owned a number of lots in the vicinity of Broad Street and was responsible for the extra width of that street. His exact reason for that has been lost to history.

Oak Street was originally named Boynton Lane in 1805, but shortly after it was called Lover’s Lane. At this time the street only extended from Broad St. to Cornelia. By the 1820s the street had been extended to Boynton Ave. and was named Oak Street for the “magnificent” old oak tree that stood in front of the Oak Tree Inn (now where Stafford Middle School is located). There were no other oak trees on the street and now there isn’t even that one!

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I’ll let you guess the origin of Court Street! (Hint: look at the building on the corner at Margaret St.)

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The old Court House and the Cumberland Hotel across the street.  Notice the plank  sidewalk!!

Then there was the street that wasn’t

On some very early city maps you might find Gold Street. It was never completed. The plan was to connect Brinkerhoff St. to Court St., but that would have removed some valuable business real estate. So plans were abandoned. Today you can see where it was started with the alley on Brinkerhoff St. next to the State Bank of Albany.

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See the entire 1852 map of the city in the Plattsburgh Public Library

And then there was the misspelled street name

The early settlers in the vicinity of Main Mill Street were from the state of Maine. Some how the “e” was lost!

The Rattlesnake Den and The Dog Kennel Corner

At the corner of Margaret and Bridge streets stood the 2-story stone Clinton County Bank owned and occupied in 1846 by Amos Prescott as a jewelry, stationery, and book store. After the fire of 1849, Prescott rebuilt and continued his business. He was a “soft shell” Democrat but after the Fremont campaign became a Republican, and his store was a headquarters for the Republicans. In derision it was called the “rattlesnake den,” and the corner was “Rattlesnake corner,” a favorite loafing spot. The Democratic headquarters was the store of William Reed across the street, and this was known as the “dog kennel.” It is said that from morning till evening when the church bell rang at nine o’clock, Samuel Couch, Tarleton, and others talked politics in the Prescott store.*

*Old Plattsburgh by Marjorie Lansing Porter, 1944.

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The Rattlesnake Den and Dog Kennel Corner became more commonly known in the early 1900s as Cady’s Corner.  The Cady Drug Store was a local landmark.

Early streets were just dirt roads. Streets were either dusty or muddy. One 19th century resident told about the “good old days” when crossing Bridge Street meant slogging through deep mud and driving with mud to the hubs of the carriage wheels. In 1849, the Plattsburgh-Saranac plank road was built. Hemlock planks were used through the Plattsburgh section.  Street paving didn’t happen until the 20th century.

Street Firsts!

Richard Yates erected the first lamppost at the corner of Broad and Margaret Streets in 1836. His intent was to promote street lighting. He must have been successful as a few years later Jonas Maurice was elected by the Village Board to light the street lamps in the city.

The first street number was posted on a Bridge St. business in December 1850. William K. Dana erected a 7 ft. long oval white porcelain sign on which a large number 1 was painted in black.

Plattsburgh’s first sidewalk was laid on Durkee St. in July 1851. Made of hemlock planks 1½ inch thick, it was a fashionable promenade at the time. Early each evening villagers gravitated in that direction to stroll and exchange pleasantries of the day.

Now one last tidbit of street lore:

The street now called Cumberland Avenue was formerly know as Bellevue Avenue, and before that it was called Chemin du Roi – a nod to the early French influence in our region.  Nuns from Montreal rented a frame building (near where the Elk’s building is today) from Henry Delord. The nuns provided it as a hospital during the Battle of Plattsburgh in the War of 1812.

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A c.1915 view of the Delord House on Cumberland Avenue

You are invited to visit the Kent-Delord House Museum at 17 Cumberland Avenue. Our tours will give you more information about the history of Plattsburgh and the fascinating role that three generations of the Delord family played in its growth!

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Thanks for stopping by.  More nuggets of Plattsburgh history will be coming your way soon!!

Founding Fathers, Local Heroes, and National Leaders

What’s In A Name  part III

In 1785 the founding fathers of the small hamlet of Plattsburgh gathered to create a government and lay out the main roads of the village. By 1798 Plattsburgh’s population was around 250 people. There were four main thoroughfares that led from the surrounding countryside to the mills along the river in the hamlet. They consisted of Cumberland Head Road, another connected to Beekman’s Patent (Beekmantown), South Street that led past the blacksmith shop to the west and southwest area of the township, and the last was the Peru Road.

As the village of Plattsburgh grew so did the number of roads. Not having GPS or Google maps to aid in giving directions, the founding fathers used the houses of prominent citizens or local landmarks to identify and name those roads. Thus we find a significant number of our city streets today are named for early settlers, local and national heroes and what was on or near the road.

So, examining the names of many of Plattsburgh’s streets has become quite a history lesson! Let’s continue…

Plattsburgh’s Illustrious Leaders

South Platt Street

While it was Zephaniah Platt who secured title to 33,000 acres along Lake Champlain, it was his brother Charles who was the first to actually build a home on that land in 1785. Even though there were 32 other individuals who invested in the land venture, it was the Platt family who organized and led the venture. Thus, the new community was called Plattsburgh. The members of the family were respected leaders and businessmen, so they were also honored with a street named after the family. Earlier I told you that Platt Street in the French Quarter was renamed in 1909 to Montcalm Avenue, but there was another road in the southern area designated as S. Platt Street. So the family didn’t lose out on having their name on a street too.

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This Platt family tree shows the descendants of Zephaniah Platt. Hand-drawn by Charles Platt in 1761. Located in the Plattsburgh Public Library.

Bailey Avenue

William Bailey was a prominent businessman, landowner, judge, and civic leader in the early 1800s. He was a partner with Henry Delord in the Red Store. Bailey owned a large tract of land in the north end of the village. His son John named a street after him as neighborhoods began to develop in that area. The Bailey home still sits on a portion of that land off Cornelia Street today.

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The original 1795 Bailey house burned down in 1822, but was rebuilt in 1825 into the current stone house.

Boynton Avenue

Captain Joseph Boynton built and sailed vessels on Lake Champlain as early as 1805. During the War of 1812 hostilities, two of his boats were seized (and then purchased) by the American government and added to Macdonough’s fleet.

Beekman Street

William Beekman of New York City held the patent (ownership) on what is now Beekmantown. The street now named for him was originally a road that ran more or less directly into the settlement of Beekmantown.

Palmer Street

This street was named for Judge John Palmer, one of the first trustees when the Village was incorporated in 1815. He was also on the first Board of Trustees of Plattsburgh Academy and served as the village District Attorney in 1818. He married Peter Sailly’s daughter, Charlotte and was the father of Peter Sailly Palmer, an historian and author of comprehensive histories of Plattsburgh and Lake Champlain (from which I got some of this information!)

Miller Street

DrMiller.jpgDr. John Miller came to Plattsburgh in 1795. He was considered a “pioneer physician,” making his calls on horseback with his saddlebags as his medical bag. He was one of the founding members of Plattsburgh’s first medical society in 1807. By then the number of doctors in Plattsburgh had risen to four!

Durkee Street

Once called Mill Alley, the road from Broad to Bridge Streets was renamed to honor Sheldon Durkee. This road was the first street formally laid out in the settlement. The Durkee family house was located at the south end of the street. Durkee was considered one of the heroes of the Battle of Plattsburgh as he, with two other Americans, were shooting at the advancing enemy when they suddenly surprised three British soldiers. As one of the Americans was wounded and the other went for help, Durkee marched the prisoners by himself into camp. Asked how he managed to bring them in, Durkee is said to have replied, “I surrounded them.”

Brinkerhoff Street

Abraham Brinkerhoff owned a large tract of land in the center of the settlement. In 1811, a committee established to build a school purchased land from Brinkerhoff for $100. It was on the corner of Oak Street and, at that time, a “contemplated” street that became Brinkerhoff Street. Abraham gave much of the land around the street to his daughter, who then donated some of it for the building of the First Presbyterian Church. Hiram Walworth, a reporter for the Plattsburgh Republican, wrote that the street was named in honor of Abraham’s wife, Mary Platt Brinkerhoff, daughter of Zephaniah Platt.

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The original First Presbyterian Church was under construction when the Battle of Plattsburgh was fought. British used the church as a cavalry barracks. American forces fired on the Church during the battle. Construction was completed in 1816. However, during the fire of 1867, the church along with 70 other buildings in the city were destroyed.

 

 

Green Street

Green street connects Bridge Street to the Saranac River. The inn on the corner, built on the foundation of the first building in a prior settlement, was owned by Isaac Green and his wife. For a long time this place was the community center of Plattsburgh. A victory celebration for Thomas Macdonough was held there and in 1817 President James Monroe was entertained there by the village’s citizenry.  Formal dance parties were held there regularly and civic group held meetings in the upstairs rooms of the tavern.

GreenSt.jpg1852 Map of Plattsburgh. Located in the Plattsburgh Public Library

First building.jpgCount Charles de Fredenburg, a Captain in the British Army received a English land grant to settle the area along Lake Champlain in 1767. A small community had started when the Revolution forced the families back to safety in Canada. De Fredenburg returned to find everything in the settlement burned to the ground. He stayed for a while, but eventually it is said that he became mentally unbalanced and was never seen again. When his heirs tried to claim the land, their title proved worthless.

 Weed Street

Smith Mead Weed, a graduate of Harvard Law School, was an influential businessman and politician. During the second half of the 19th century, Weed served multiple terms representing Clinton County in the NY Assembly and was a delegate to the 1876 and 1884 Democratic Nation Conventions. Through his political influence, the Delaware and Hudson Railroad extended their tracks all the way from New York City through Plattsburgh to Montreal.

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Weed also developed a park with a fountain and gazebo on the banks of the Saranac River across from his home on Cumberland Avenue.

 Couch Street

Named for Samuel Couch, a fervent Republican who was usually found on “Rattlesnake Corner”. (I’ll tell you about this in the next episode!)  He was the city coroner during the first part of the 1800s.   Anne Gilliland, early City Historian, related an amusing story: “A letter was once addressed to some person on Sofa Street, which of course, puzzled the post office personnel, until a quick-witted young lady solved the problem and the letter reached its destination.”

The City Fathers had seen fit through the years to also honor military heroes, Macdonough and Macomb, Civil War Generals Sheridan and Sherman with street names, as well as numerous U.S. Presidents, Grant, Lincoln, Monroe, Roosevelt, Truman, and McKinley. In fact, Hotel Champlain on Bluff Point served as the summer White House in both 1897 and 1899 for President McKinley and staff. The McKinleys believed that the hotel’s water had beneficial effects on their health. Subsequent historians question the wisdom of this decision. A document provided to the Assembly of New York later attributed a typhoid outbreak amongst hotel staff to the unsanitary properties of the water.

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President McKinley and staff at Champlain Hotel.

 I know I haven’t described all the streets named after important and not-so-important citizens and others, but I have given you the highlights…

However, there is one more episode in this series to come! Stay tuned!!

Another source:

Plattsburgh, New York – A City’s First Century, Richard Frost, 2002.

The French Connection

What’s In A Name?  Part II

In 1785 a group of men established a settlement on Lake Champlain at the mouth of the Saranac River. Led by Zephaniah Platt, Melancton Smith, Ezara l’Hommediey, Thomas Treadwell, and joined in short time by Peter Sailly, the new village of Plattsburgh was created.

Drawn by the abundance of natural resources and new opportunities, more settlers began to make this area home including many French and French Canadians. What better way to acknowledge their impact on Plattsburgh than to name streets after some of the more illustrious persons.

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Delord Street

Our own Henry (née Henri) Delord was one of the “movers & shakers” in the early growth of Plattsburgh. An immigrant from Nimes, France by way of the Caribbean, Henry embraced his adopted land becoming a landowner, businessman, judge, and community leader. During the Battle of Plattsburgh, he risked his business for the American forces, only to see that patriotism lead to his bankruptcy. (It’s a fascinating story folks! Visit the Kent-Delord House Museum to find out more!!)

Sailly Avenue

Delord’s friend and neighbor Peter Sailly was born in the Lorraine region of France. As a young man he had served in a corps of soldiers who were bodyguards for King Louis XVI. Having inherited heavy family debts in France, Sailly with his wife and children immigrated to the US for a new start in 1784. Traveling throughout New York State, he was taken with what he saw as unlimited possibilities in the Lake Champlain region. The next year the Saillys joined the Platt group settling in Plattsburgh. He began to prosper trading in potash, timber, and furs. He was active in community affairs and elected to numerous political positions including serving in the House of Representatives (1805-1807). In 1809, Sailly was appointed Collector of Customs by Pres. Jefferson and served in that capacity until his death in 1826.

(btw: According to one of Peter’s descendants, the correct pronunciation of the name is “Sul-lee”!)

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The French Quarter

In the mid-19th century a large number of Quebecois had settled in this area seeking industrial jobs. St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church was started by the Oblate Fathers of Mary Immaculate Missionaries from Canada in 1853 to meet the spiritual needs of those French-speaking residents in Plattsburgh. The neighborhood near the Church became known as the “French Quarter” and the streets named accordingly.

St. Charles Place

Father Sallz, an early priest of St. Peter’s, named the street in honor of Charles Auguste, Bishop of Nancy, France.

Montcalm Avenue

Montcalm.jpgOriginally this street was called “Stove Pipe Street” since all its houses didn’t have chimneys, just stovepipes sticking out.  It was later named Platt St.   In 1909 as part of the City’s 300th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s entrance to the lake that bears his name, the street was re-named in honor of the French general Louis Joseph Montcalm commander of French forces during the French and Indian Wars. Montcalm died defending Quebec in the 1759 Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

Champlain Street

SdChamplain.jpgCome on—I think the name Samuel de Champlain is imprinted on the brains of everyone who lives in the North Country!! There had to be a street named in his honor!! Did you know we don’t really know what Champlain looked like? All the images we have are just artist representations of how they think he might have appeared. The only real image we have is a drawing by Champlain in his 1609 journal, depicting a battle between Iroquois and Algonquian tribes near Lake Champlain.


Lafayette Street

Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, known simply as Lafayette, was a key figure in both the American and French Revolutions.

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For his leadership and bravery during the Revolution, Maryland made Lafayette a “natural born citizen” of that state in 1784. This made him a natural born citizen of the United States when the Constitution was adopted in 1789!

FHDW.1 copy.jpegFrances Henrietta Delord Webb met Lafayette during her honeymoon trip through Europe in 1833. Her journal describes the visit: “Tuesday, April 8, Attended a Soiree at Madame Curtis’. Met with a host of Americans. Lafayette with three granddaughters were there. I conversed for a long time with him. He expressed to me his strong attachment to America. He appears to retain the faculties of his mind most remarkably [age76]. He invited us to visit La Grange [Lafayette’s home]. Both Frances Henrietta and Lafayette died the next year.

Two other city streets with a French connection are:

Lorraine Street

No, it is not a woman’s name! Peter Sailly came from this region in France.

Durand Street

Named in honor of Marinus Durand a French immigrant (also from Nimes!) who married Peter Sailly’s daughter. He served as deputy Collector of Customs and was a Quartermaster during the War of 1812.

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!899 Bird’s Eye View map of Plattsburgh

The naming of our city streets is proving to be quite a lesson in the history of Plattsburgh!! 

Keep checking this blog—there’s more to come!!

 

Thank You!

THANK YOU to Mayor Read, Mr. Farrington, and all the other City staff responsible for the quick response to correcting the street sign honoring Lucretia Davidson!

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Why Is Lucretia Davidson important in Plattsburgh’s history?

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Lucretia Maria Davidson was born Sept. 27, 1808 to Dr. Oliver Davidson and his wife, Margaret Miller Davidson. Her father was one of the first four physicians in the young settlement of Plattsburg. The family struggled not only financially but also personally.  Of the ten children born to the couple, only four survived to adolescence and only two of those lived to adulthood.

Here’s an interesting aside: Dr. Davidson designed the weather vane that capped the newly built Plattsburg Academy in 1811. It depicted an angel blowing the trumpet of fame. Unfortunately, the Academy was completely destroyed by fire in Nov. 1871 and the weather vane lost.

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When Plattsburg Academy opened in 1811, Lucretia, then 4 years old, attended to learn to read and write Roman letters (today this is printed letters in all caps). This is when her family discovered her first poetic attempts. Lucretia, mortified that others were seeing her work, burned all of them. She had learned script by the time she was seven and then began almost a decade of prolific writing. Encouraged by her mother, also a writer, she was continually composing poetry, often stopping all other activity to steal away and write the thoughts spilling into her head.

When Lucretia was 15, she received a scholarship to attend the Willard School in Troy, NY.  However, too much attention to her studies and not enough to her health force Lucretia to return to Plattsburgh a short time later.   After her recovery, she went to Miss Gilbert’s school in Albany, but three short months later she returned home gravely ill. Lucretia died at age 16 years and 11 months from consumption, now called tuberculosis.

Although Lucretia was prone to destroying the poems she decided didn’t meet her standards (estimated to be about 1/3rd of all her writing), she left behind 278 completed works – an amazing amount of poetry for such a young person. These works were praised by a number of notable writers of that time period including Edgar Allan Poe. Samuel F. B. Morse wrote a glowing biographical sketch of her which was published in 1829.

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Other interesting asides: The youngest Davidson, Margaret, was only 2 yrs. old when Lucretia died. She also began to write poetry at a young age and by ten years old had written a drama (in two days) which she and some friends performed. Sadly, like her sister, Margaret succumbed to consumption shortly before her 16th birthday. The family had moved to Ballston Spa in 1833 in hopes that environment would be beneficial to the health of both mother and daughter. Margaret’s writing had caught the attention of Washington Irving, of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” fame, who wrote a glowing biography/eulogy of the young poet.

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The Davidson house in Plattsburgh was next door to the Delord house on Cumberland Avenue. Frances Henrietta Delord and both Davidson girls knew each other and, although not in the same grade, attended Plattsburg Academy.  When Frances Henrietta died in 1834, Margaret wrote a 13-verse tribute to her and sent it to Betsey Delord.  Margaret had just move from Plattsburgh the previous year.

The complete works of the Davidson sisters were published together in 1850

What’s In A Name?!

Quick question: What is the most common street name in the United States?

No-don’t Google it!! Just give the first answer that comes into your head!

Asking this question in my small (not very scientific) survey, I found that the majority of people gave “Main” as the #1 answer.

WRONG!

According to the top websites on this question the answer is either “Second” or “Park.”  While the City of Plattsburgh does have a Park Avenue, there is no street named Second. It is also interesting to note that in New York State “Park” leads the list of most common names, but “Second” is not even in the top ten.

Why am I talking about street names? Well, the other day I was driving on N. Catherine St., turned onto Cornelia St. and then onto Margaret St., when it popped into my mind that quite a few of the city’s streets are named for women! Mind you these are not little side streets, these are some of the main thoroughfares in the city. This led to the larger questions: 1. How did all the streets in Plattsburgh come to be named, and 2. Why are the main ones named for women?

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On June 16, 1785, Plattsburgh’s first town meeting was held at the home of Judge Charles Platt. Three men were elected commissioners of Highway and they soon laid out the principal roads of the town (city) that remain today.

Let’s start our “walk-about” with the streets named for women.

The main road through early Plattsburgh was named in honor of the “bright little Quaker” mother of Col. Melancton Smith (U.S. Army) and Capt. Sidney Smith (U.S. Navy), Margaret Mott Smith. Margaret’s husband Jude Melancton Smith was an officer during the American Revolution. He represented Duchess County in the first provincial congress as well as in the convention meeting in 1778 to consider the Constitution of the U.S.   Smith along with the Platts were the original proprietors of Plattsburgh.

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Margaret Street circa 1895

Col. Melancton Smith named a new street, then hardly more than a lane running west, for his young wife, Cornelia. He also named Elizabeth Street for his sister, Elizabeth Gilman. She was married to Henry S. Johnson, one of the up-and-coming lawyers in early Plattsburgh.

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Grave of Cornelia Smith wife of Col. Melancton Smith in Riverside Cemetery

When Gilead Sperry gave the village of Plattsburgh a portion of land for a street to run to the south, his wife was given the honor of it being named for her, Catherine Kilburn Marsh. In an1822 newspaper article it was stated that she spelled her name with a “K” and the road was originally referred to as Katherine Street.

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The Hon. J. Douglas Woodward was renowned for his efforts in laying out and improving the city’s streets as well as “living a pure life.”   The city honored him by naming a street after his daughter Helen, who was a long-time principal of Plattsburgh High School. It is interesting that the part of what is now Brinkerhoff north of Helen was named after Woodward himself, but later it was decided to extend the Brinkerhoff name the entire length of the street.  Also the northern part of Couch Street was named after Woodward’s wife, Matilda, but again the name Couch was extended for the entire street.

Charlotte Street was named for the wife of Rev. Hiram Safford who had been a Major of the 7th regiment of the Reg. N.Y. Volunteers. Charlotte was a granddaughter of Israel Green, proprietor of the renowned tavern in Plattsburgh. Charlotte St. ran from Bridge St to the Old Roman Catholic Cemetery where it then became Peru St.  Let me warn you before you go looking for this street on the city map – it’s not there any more!   At some time after the late 1970s, the entire street became  Peru St.

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Bird’sEye View Map showing location of Charlotte St. in 1899

Marion Street was named for the wife of Judge William P. Mooers who owned the land adjacent to the road.

Grace Avenue was a relatively new street addition in the 1930s. It was named after Grace Healey, wife of Samuel Healey, one of the developers of that area of the city.

One last interesting street named after a Plattsburgh female is Lucretia-Davi(d)son Dr.** This is a 20th century addition to our street names. There are no houses along it since it is a very short connector from Byrne Lane going north around the U.S. Oval.   One might think that length mirrors Lucretia’s life.   She began writing poetry at age four and died just short of her 17th birthday. Her poetry caught the attention of notable writers including Edgar Allan Poe…but that’s a story for another time.

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**You probably notice the misspelling in Lucretia’s name. After calling this to the attention of City officials, they said the sign would be corrected.

It is a testament to the early leaders of Plattsburgh that they wanted to immortalize their mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters by naming the city’s streets after them.

(This is part I of a series on the names of Plattsburgh’s city streets)

Keep checking this blog—there’s more to come!!

Sources:

Three Centuries in the Champlain Valley, Mrs. Geo. F. Tuttle 1909

Press Republican,        Jan. 7, 1935 & Mar. 1-5, 1982

Old Plattsburgh, Marjorie Lansing Porter 1944

Women in History Month – part 2

Today my focus is on Jeannette Brookings Tuttle

Although Jeannette Tuttle was not a member of the Delord family, she had a major impact on it’s story, and that of the Plattsburgh community in general.  Here’s today’s Woman in History!!

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Maria Jeannette Brookings was born in Athol, Massachusetts in 1864. She counted at least 30 prominent colonial figures among her ancestors and was a member of a dozen history organizations.   Jeannette graduated from the State Normal School at Salem Massachusetts with a degree in teaching.   In 1889, Jeannette married Plattsburgh businessman George Fuller Tuttle. They made their home at 9 Cumberland Avenue, next door to Fannie and Frank Hall.

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Mrs. Tuttle was the quintessential early 19th century wife of a prominent businessman in Plattsburgh. Women were not supposed to work outside the home, but their comfortable life also precluded doing housework. That left them to seek other means to use their education, wealth, and ambitions. Civic causes, the poor, orphans, and history were among the crusades that were the recipients their beneficence. During her time in Plattsburgh, Mrs. Tuttle focused her energies to work with the Saranac Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.), the Physician’s Hospital Ladies League, and the Daughters of 1812 as well as a number of other organizations.

In addition to fundraising for the local orphanage, the hospital, the Red Cross, and other local charitable causes, Mrs. Tuttle raised awareness of the importance of the history of Plattsburgh and the North Country. She was responsible for researching and writing a comprehensive history of the North Country, Three Centuries of the Champlain Valley, 1607-1907, published for the celebration of the Champlain Tercentenary. Maybe it was this love of history that drew her to the Kent-Delord House.

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Numerous articles appeared in the local newspapers that chronicled Mrs. Tuttle’s efforts to promote the value of the history of the Kent-Delord House. College classes and high school students were invited to a tour of the house guided by Mrs. Tuttle. Then the essays written about their visit by these students were published in the paper. Visiting physicians were taken on tour of the KDH, especially to get a look at a valuable copy of Wm. Beaumont’s famous medical book on digestion.   The Ladies’ League of Physician’s Hospital held its annual tea (using the historic China!) in the dining room of the KDH.   Mrs. Tuttle encouraged soldiers from Plattsburgh Barracks to tour the historic home.

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As Regent of the Saranac Chapter of the D.A.R., Mrs. Tuttle was able to work toward her goal of making the KDH a museum. Meetings were held in the house, and for a while it became the official home of the local chapter.   Raising money for the upkeep of the house became one of the Chapter’s causes. They opened the house as a museum and charged 50¢ for a tour! But even Mrs. Tuttle knew that the old house needed more care. She was able to convince local philanthropist, William H. Miner to contribute $1000 a year toward the upkeep of the house. She even solicited help from George Eastman, but he declined. She knew more was needed.

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It was her dogged insistence that finally convinced Mr. Miner to purchase the house in 1924. Then he  set out to repair, restore, and create a Board that allowed the Kent-Delord House to be chartered as a museum and educational institution. Jeannette B. Tuttle and her husband George were appointed to be charter members of the newly created Board of the Kent-Delord House Trust. Even then, Mrs. Tuttle did not stop working on behalf the new museum. She continued to organize, research, and promote the historic value of the Delord family contribution to the development of Plattsburgh.

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In 1932, Jeannette Brookings Tuttle left Plattsburgh to live with her daughter in Scarsdale, NY.   After her many years in Plattsburgh as a civic activist and local historian, Mrs. Tuttle was slowed by health. An editorial in the April 5, 1932 Plattsburgh Sentinel listed in detail her accomplishments in the community. More importantly it expressed a deep gratitude and respect for the woman who gave so much to Plattsburgh and especially the Kent-Delord House.

“In no place will Mrs. Tuttle be more greatly missed than at the historic Kent-DeLord House on Cumberland avenue. This is a veritable treasure house of historic lore, old furniture, portraits, books, relics of the Battle of Plattsburgh, together with mementoes of the Kents, the DeLords, the Swetlands, and the Halls, who at one time or another lived in this picturesque old mansion and left their impress upon much of that which is in the house today.

There is not a nook or cranny in the old house which Mrs. Tuttle does not know. Every piece of rare old china, every bit of lace and embroidery, every picture has its history and it is an open book to Mrs. Tuttle. It is here that her gracious personality alone the best, for she delighted in escorting visitors through the old house and calling their attention to some of the beautiful treasures it contains.”                                                 (Plattsburgh Sentinel, April 5, 1932)

Jeannette Brookings Tuttle was returned to Plattsburgh at her death in 1938. Her body lay in state at the Kent-Delord House (a poignant honor for the woman who dedicated a good portion of her life to the Kent-Delord House and its history) prior to the funeral service at the Presbyterian Church.   Interment was in Riverside Cemetery during a private ceremony.

“It remained for Mrs. Tuttle to collect all the historical facts concerning these treasures and to add to them in every possible way. The outstanding part of her life work was to arrange, add to, catalogue and place in a proper setting the invaluable collection she found and the manner in which she aroused the interest of others until the Kent-Delord House stands today as a treasure house unique of its kind and one that is known far and wide. Mrs. Tuttle saw all the possibilities of this old house and she never rested until these possibilities were made facts. She has left a work that will cause her to be remembered as long as the house itself exists. Plattsburgh owes her a debt of gratitude which should keep her memory warm as long as there are hearts that beat with love for the old town and its glorious past.”              (Plattsburgh Sentinel, Jan. 24, 1938)

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The Kent-Delord House Museum as well as the whole community is indebted to this extraordinary woman whose determination and drive helped to preserve our historic treasures!

Women in History Month

The month of March celebrates Women in History.   During this time we should shine a light on some of the women who have made a difference in our own community. A number of these women have a connection to the Delord family.

 

Today, I want to focus on Frances Delord Webb Hall.

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Frances Delord Webb Hall, better know as Fannie, was the last generation of Delords to live in the house on Cumberland Avenue. Her father, Henry Webb, sent her to live with her grandmother Betsey upon her mother’s death (only a month after her birth) until she was four years old. Fearing Betsey was over-indulgent in raising Fannie, Webb then sent her to live with his sister in Hartford, Connecticut where her upbringing stressed duty and compassion.

Fannie was educated at the Hartford Female Seminary, a school founded by Catharine Beecher, sister of Harriet Beecher Stowe.   The belief that young ladies should learn to be useful members of society was its underlying educational philosophy. Fannie graduated from there in 1851.

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By 1853 Fannie was being courted by Francis Bloodgood Hall, better known as Frank, recently graduated from Union College.   Since he was about to enter Princeton Theological Seminary, they postponed marriage until he graduated in 1856. Then a licensed Presbyterian Minister, Frank joined Fannie in a life dedicated to helping others.

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Fannie had visited Plattsburgh over the years and Grandmother Betsey wrote copious letters detailing life in Plattsburgh to make sure Fannie maintained a connection to the community. Finally in 1862, Fannie moved to Plattsburgh to care for her ailing grandparents.  Frank’s “detour” to service as a Chaplain for the local 16th NY Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War kept him from joining Fannie until the end of 1863.

 

Fannie’s upbringing led her to become active in the community especially after the death of her beloved grandmother, Betsey Delord Swetland. Plattsburgh is fortunate that Fannie found her niche here.

 

Among her accomplishments are:

 

  • As a self-taught doctor/pharmacist, Fannie used her knowledge and connections to administer to the community, especially the poor.
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  • As an investigator for Plattsburgh’s chapter of the Women’s Relief Corps, Fannie reported on cases of hardship among women and soldiers’ families. She provided soup from her own kitchen as she visited the poor.
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  • As a social activist, Fannie helped create and provided ongoing support for the Home for the Friendless for Orphans and Destitute Women.
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  • As an inventor and businesswoman, Fannie created and patented an ointment aptly named Fanoline. With her husband, Fannie created the Cumberland Bay Works located in the rear part of her house to manufacture and distribute this salve “which was good for fever sores, piles, sore nipples, burns, chapped hands and lips, and much more.”
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  • As a founder of Plattsburgh’s branch of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), Fannie was President and for a longer time the secretary of the local chapter, contributing information to a regular column in the Plattsburgh Sentinel newspaper. She traveled to many state and some national conventions and was host to Frances Willard, national president. She also developed a close friendship with Louise Rounds of the Illinois WCTU and a nationally recognized speaker for the WCTU.
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  • Provided a Sabbath service for inmates at the county jail for over 20 years

 

Other than the 25¢ per tin for the Fanoline, Fannie received no payment for any of the services she provided. It was her belief that since she was fortunate to not have to work, she should give to the community. Besides her community service, Fannie continued The Delord family tradition to entertain family, friends, and guests at dinners and teas in her home. In many ways, Fannie was in the forefront of the women’s rights movement with her social activism on behalf of the poor, the insane and the intemperate.

Fannie died on Oct. 4, 1913, ten years to the day after her husband’s death. Right up to her death, Fannie had continued her social work throughout the community.   On the day of her death, Fannie went about her usual schedule; in the morning she met with her staff regarding a dinner party the next day, and attended a temperance meeting and visited a friend at the Home for Aged Women in the afternoon.   She died that evening. Fannie was 79 years old.

Of the many tributes to her life, the one from the managers of the Home for the Friendless sums Fannie’s strengths and influence:

“Mrs. Hall’s was a character made of sterling puritan qualities which never swerved from a conscientious sense of duty, strongly felt by all who came in touch with her.”

 Frances Delord Hall’s commitment to the values of love and duty certainly enriched the Plattsburgh community.

 

 

 

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Commemorating Veterans Day 2016

In commemorating this year’s Veterans Day, I’d like to reprint an article from the Summer 1986 Quarterly Newsletter of the Kent-Delord House Museum .

Reverend Hall and the Medal of Honor

By James J. Reh

The Reverend Francis Bloodgood Hall (1827-1903), husband of Fannie Delord Hall, was the second chaplain in the history of the United States to be awarded the Medal of Honor. The medal is on display in the Kent-Delord House Museum.

 

“He who possesses the Medal of Honor is the holder of the highest military award for bravery that can be given to any individual in the United States of America.” (From the official publication of the Department of the Army, The Medal of Honor.)

 

The Medal of Honor was first authorized by Congress and approved by President Abraham Lincoln on December 21, 1861 for enlisted men of the United States Navy. The authorization was later amended to include officers as well as enlisted men of the army and navy, with eligibility for award retroactive to the beginning of the Civil War. The medal was to be awarded only to those who most distinguished themselves by their gallantry in action. This first official badge of honor authorized in the United States eventually became fixed at the apex of a “Pyramid of Honor,” after additional medals were authorized to be awarded in ascending degrees of service or valor. Because the medal is presented in the name of the Congress of the United States, it is often referred to as the Congressional Medal of Honor.

“Voluntarily exposed himself to a heavy fire during the thickest of the fight and carried wounded men to the rear for treatment and attendance.

Salem Heights, Virginia, 3 May 1863.”

 

So reads the formal citation for Reverend Hall’s Medal of Honor. He was 36 years of age when he performed his heroic feat in the Civil War during the Chancellorsville Campaign, and was serving the last few weeks of his brief service as Chaplain of the 16th New York volunteer Regiment. In fact, the Battle of Salem Heights was the Regiment’s last battle. Organized soon after the outbreak of the Civil War, the 16th New York, composed of men from Clinton, Franklin and St. Lawrence Counties, was officially activated in May, 1861 for a two year tour of duty. It became part of General McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. The Regiment saw a great deal of action during the war, including the battles of 1st Bull Run, West Point, Gaines’ Mill, Glendale, Crampton’s Pass, Antietam and Salem Heights.

Reverend Hall was actually the Regiment’s third chaplain. He was preceded by Royal B. Stratton and Andrew M. Millar, both of whom resigned due to ill health. Nominated as a replacement in October, 1862 by his friend, Lt. Colonel Franklin Palmer of C Company, Hall reported for duty at White Oak Church, Virginia in early December,1862. At the time of his nomination, he was pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Luzerne, New York. The Battle of Salem Heights represented his only engagement under fire; he was mustered out of service along with the regiment on May 22, 1863. His brief but distinguished service made a lasting impression on many of his comrades for in addition to his gallantry inaction, he was an outdoorsman who did not mind sharing the privations of military camp live with them. He also won their respect by his sincere and tireless efforts in the administration of his duties, and he refused all pay for his services. Reverend Hall especially impressed the man who recommended him for the Medal of Honor 33 years after the battle.

John C. Gilmore was a major in F Company, 16th New York volunteers. Later promoted to Lt. Colonel of the 93rd New York, he was mustered out of service in 1866. Gilmore re-entered the regular army as a 2nd Lieutenant and after a long and distinguished career, he retired as a Brigadier General. During the late fall of 1896, he was a lt. Colonel, serving in Washington, D.C., as Assistant Adjutant General. In his letter of recommendation to Colonel Frederick Grayton Ainsworth, Record and Pension Division, War Department, Washington, D.C., dated December 15, 1896, Gilmore chronicled Reverend Hall’s actions during the Battle of Salem Heights and explained the reason for his belated recommendation:

Sir:

I have the honor to recommend that Reverend Hall, late Chaplain, 16th New York Volunteers Infantry, be granted a Medal of Honor for his brave conduct at the Battle of Salem Heights, Virginia, May 3, 1863. Chaplain Hall did voluntarily come, during the hardest fighting with his horse, to the left of the regiment and carried wounded men upon his horse to the rear for proper care and attendance. I saw him do this several times during the engagement, and it is possible that he did more than I noticed for I was busy with other matters.

Major Gilmore was indeed “busy with other matters.” The citation for his Medal of Honor, awarded for his actions during the same battle reads, “seized the colors of his regiment and gallantly rallied his men under a very severe fire.”

After documenting the severity of the battle that cost the 16th New York 154 casualties, Gilmore concluded his letter by stating:

I therefore earnestly recommend him for a Medal of Honor and trust that it will meet with approval. This only occurred to me a few days since as I read in a newspaper that a chaplain had been awarded a Medal [of Honor] for service in battle. I have never mentioned this matter to chaplain Hall in any way whatsoever, and knowing him as I do, he is the last man in the world who would ever think of being rewarded for his act.

 

                                                                     Very respectfully,

                                                                      J.C. Gilmore

                                                                       Late Major, 16th New York

                                                                       Volunteers Infantry

                                                                        Now Lt. Colonel, A.A.G.

 

Before he read the newspaper article, it apparently had not occurred to Gilmore that persons designated as non-combatants might be eligible to receive the Medal of Honor. The chaplain Lt. Colonel Gilmore read about was the Reverend Milton L. Haney of the 55th Illinois Infantry, who “voluntarily carried a musket in the ranks of his regiment and rendered heroic service in retaking the Federal works…”at Atlanta, Georgia on July 22, 1864. He was awarded the Medal of Honor on November 3, 1896.

A third army chaplain was also awarded the Medal of Honor during the Civil War. The Reverend John M. Whitehead of the 15th Indiana Infantry rescued wounded comrades under fire at Stone River, Tennessee on December 31, 1862. His medal was awarded on April 4, 1898.

On February 16, 1897, Reverend Hall received the following letter from the Record and Pension Office, War Department, Washington, D.C.:

Sir:

I have the honor to inform you that, by direction of the President and in accordance with the Act of Congress approved March 3, 1863 providing for the presentation of Medals of Honor…the Assistant Secretary of War has awarded you a Medal of Honor for distinguished gallantry in action at the Battle of Salem Heights, Virginia, May 3, 1863…The Medal has been forwarded to you today by registered mail. Upon the receipt of it, please advise this office thereof.

                                                                 Very respectfully,

                                                                  F.G.Ainsworth,                                                                                                

                                                                   Colonel U.S. Army

                                                                    Chief, Record and Pension

After his military service, Reverend Hall and his wife Fannie made their home in Plattsburgh in the Delord house. He founded the Peristrome Presbyterian Church in 1864 and served as its only pastor until his death in 1903. He was also unofficial chaplain of the local army barracks for a time, and, along with Fannie, performed various social services for the community. As a minister and civic leader, he served his community well in peace time, but amid the carnage of battle one spring day in 1863, Reverend Francis Bloodgood Hall also served his country well and richly deserved “the highest award for bravery that can be given to any individual in the United States of America.”

Plattsburgh’s First Kindergarten Teacher

In a June 29, 1879 Plattsburgh Sentinel article, Mary Butler called for the establishment of a kindergarten in the city of Plattsburgh.   Developed in the 1830s by German educator Friedrich Froebel, the idea was for a pre-school experience to teach young children about art, design, math, and natural history by stressing the socialization of the child through play. The program was finally introduced to the United States at the 1876 Centennial Exposition where advocates presented an exhibition of the kindergarten methods.

Shortly after Mrs. Butler’s call, an advertisement appeared in the Sentinel stating that Miss Helena Augustin would be opening a Kindergarten School starting that September in a building on the corner of Oak Street and Protection Avenue. This was made possible by Frances (Fannie) Delord Hall who had met the teacher at a Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) convention and invited her to be the Halls’ guest at their home. Helena Augustin lived at the Delord residence for more than 20 years while conducting her Kindergarten School.

Born in Bingen, Germany in 1850, Helena and a brother immigrated to New York City when she was 11 years old. No more information is available until she arrives in Plattsburgh in 1879. For the next 22 years, Helena taught the first Kindergarten in Plattsburgh. By the late 1880s, instruction had expanded up to the 4th grade.   Many of the early prominent men and women in this city were her pupils.

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A receipt for tuition for a term in the Kindergarten School.  It is interesting to note that the student, Master Albert Cananagh, in the son of James Cavanagh, who will become Helena’s husband in 15 years!

The Plattsburgh Sentinel is filled with articles about the activities of the school. There were regular reports throughout the year on the various programs and recitals put on for the parents and community. All the articles are lavish with their praise of Helena and the school.

“The entertainment by the little people of the Kindergarten school at the Plattsburgh Theater, Wednesday evening was a charming affair that delighted the large audience    present. So much loveliness, grace, and sweetness embodied and all the little bodies acquitting themselves so remarkably well, could not fail to captivate. Miss Augustin, her assistant, Miss Maud Madden, and their aids and abettors, have occasion for pride and genuine satisfaction over their real fairies’ entertainment.”                                                                                     -Plattsburgh Sentinel, June 29, 1894.

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The school bell used by Helena during the time she ran the Kindergarten School.  The bell was donated along with the tuition receipts and the photograph of Helena by her Great-grandson, James Cavanagh.

Another Sentinel article was more on the side of gossip:

Miss Augustin, of the Kindergarten School, and Mrs. Baker, attended the excursion of  the Peristrome Sabbath School, to Willsboro Point last week.   While out rowing upon the lake they had a narrow escape from drowning by their boat filling with water. Parties upon the shore rescued them, but not until they had received a thorough wetting.                                                                                                                                                                                            –Plattsburgh Sentinel, July 21, 1882

Helena married prominent Plattsburgh businessman James Cavanagh in the east parlor of the Delord House in 1902. The ceremony was described as “a quiet one, only Mr. Cavanagh’s family and the most intimate friends of the bride” attended.

The wedding announcement in the Plattsburgh Sentinel describes the scene:

“The parlor was tastefully decorated with vines, ferns and palms. A beautiful bower of the green plants, brightened by hydrangeas, was constructed in the corner of the room, and it was before this bower that the ceremony was performed. An orchestra hidden in the conservatory behind the bower rendered appropriate music.”

Rev. Hall performed the ceremony. Helena was a member of his Peristrome Presbyterian Church, where she was active in leading the youth membership

The announcement also describes Helena’s wedding attire:

“…she was dressed in light pearl gray crepe de chine, trimmed with Dutchess lace, the collar of the gown being fastened by a diamond sunburst, a present of the groom.”

Among the wedding gifts mentioned was “a picture from the kindergarten children with a collection of cards in which each child sent congratulations and greeting.”   We know that the Halls presented the couple with a China cabinet, thanks to information and a picture provide by a great-grandson, James Cavanagh.

The late day ceremony was followed by an informal reception at the Hall’s residence. Then the newlyweds “took the north-bound train on their wedding journey.” Following the honeymoon, Helena moved into the Cavanagh home at 8 Macomb Street. After more than 20 years living as a “guest” of Fannie and Frank Hall, Helena now had a home of her own.

Social propriety required that married women not work, so Helena’s teaching career ended, but not her community involvement. Another result of her marriage was that now Helena identity was as Mrs. James Cavanagh throughout the Plattsburgh social scene.

For a couple years after their marriage, the Cavanaghs were cited in the social columns for the trips they took to Florida and Malone. However, those notices stopped. Now the articles only mentioned Helena’s work with the WCTU, the Presbyterian Church Youth group, and the Children‘s Home of Northern New York. In the obituary for James Cavanagh, we find the reason for this. James had a stroke two years after his marriage to his third wife, Helena. His health deteriorated for the next five years until his death in 1908.   Thus, we can infer that Helena spent much of that five years looking after the health of her husband. His obituary described him “as a husband he was kind and loyal.”

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This is the only picture the Museum has of Helena.  This was taken on a trip to St. Augustine, FL with friends.  Helena is circled and her husband is on the far left.

Helena appeared to be highly regarded in the Plattsburgh community.   Even after her marriage and “retirement” the press reported on several events in her life. One reported an accident in her home:

            “Mrs. James Cavanagh met with a painful accident on Tuesday evening, which      resulted in her spraining her right ankle severely. Mrs. Cavanagh was ascending the stairs when her foot caught in her dress and she fell. The injured ankle necessitates Mrs. Cavanagh’s keeping very quiet, but it is hoped that she will soon be up and about again.”           -Plattsburgh Sentinel June 28, 1907                                                                               

 It was very common for the newspaper of that time to report what was titled “Nearby News” which told all the social and personal happenings (gossip) of the day.

Another accident report was more serious:

“A badly wrecked automobile and a worse wrecked carriage was the result of a                 peculiar collision on the Bridge street bridge at about a quarter past nine last evening.

            There seems to be a difference of opinion as to how it happened but there is no doubt          that the big Mitchell taxi cab driven by a youth who gave his name a Jess DeFousor, went a long way toward demolishing the carriage driven by John Wilson, a cabman,  who was taking Mrs. James Cavanagh to her home on Macomb street.

            Wilson says that he was driving east on Bridge street and had no warning until the             automobile crashed     into the rear of his rig, which appears to have been lifted bodily and turned half way round. The horse was forced violently against the iron work of the bridge and thrown down. The driver was thrown out and was badly cut about the head and face. Several stitches were taken in his forehead by Dr. Robinson. The entire front to the rig was a mass of wreckage broken shafts, wheels and axles were strewn around the bridge. 

            Fortunately the body of the carriage was left intact and Mrs. Cavanagh escaped without injury except for a severe shaking up and shock…”                        –Plattsburgh Sentinel April 18, 1919

It is interesting to note that this article was front page news along with articles about the Peace Conference at Versailles and Bolshevik insurgency in Germany.

Helena Augustin Cavanagh died August 8, 1921.   Her obituary praised her determination and accomplishments.

“From the very beginning of her life here Mrs. Cavanagh was most active in every good work. She was always a member, and for many years President and recently   County Superintendent of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. She was also Leader of the Loyal Temperance Legion, a childrens temperance organization.  Among her many interest was the Children’s Home of Northern New York and at the time of her death she was one of its managers…

            Mrs. Cavanagh was an untiring and enthusiastic worker in any activity with which she was connected and will be greatly missed in this community.”

                                                                                                                –Plattsburgh Sentinel, August 9, 1921