Thursday, September 11, 2008

Another letter requesting Chester's records

Since Carol's Doctor's request for great-grandfather Chester Clarke's Willard Hospital records received a negative response (I think they didn't receive or read the right information, in looking for his record), my nurse practitioner has sent the following letter:

JMH Medical Practice
28 Church Street
Alfred, New York 14802
607-587-9175 fax

Binghamton Psychiatric Center
425 Robinson Street
Binghamton, NY 13904

September 10, 2008

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing this letter in request of copies of medical records for Chester Smedley Clarke (DOB July 15, 1849). Chester Smedley Clarke is the great-grandfather of a patient of mine, George Douglas Clarke (DOB 11/20/1957).

Per the information that was able to be accessed from the Allegany County court records, Chester was committed to the Willard State Hospital on or about July 8, 1904.

Do to the unknown nature of Chester’s commitment to the Willard State Hospital I would like to inquire into his medical records, so that if there is an underlying hereditary predilection that I may document that in my patient’s chart.

It is stated, per the Allegany County records of the Superior Court “in the matter of Clarke, Chester S.”: “At a special term of Superior Court held at the Court House in the city of Rochester New York… on the 20th day of May, 1905, present Hon. Nathaniel Foote, Justice… in the matter of the appointment of a Committee of the person and estate of Chester S. Clare [sic] an alleged incompetent person and an inmate of the Willard State Hospital, on reading and filling the petition of Robert M. Elliott, Superintendent of the Willard State Hospital… duly verified on the 6th day of April, 1905, asking for the appointment of a committee… the said Chester S. Clark was duly committed to said Hospital as an incompetent on the 5th day of July, 1904 admitted thereto on the 8th day of July, 1904, and is now an inmate… at the time of commitment was a resident of the town of Alfred, State of New York…”

A second record, “At a special term of the Supreme Court held at the Court House in the Village of Belmont, NY… on the third day of September 1907, Present, Hon. Truman C. White, justice presiding… in the matter of Chester S. Clarke, an incompetent person upon the coming in of the Referee’s report in this proceeding, dated the 18th day of July 1907, by which it appears that the said Chester S. Clarke has so far recovered his mental capacity as to be capable of managing his person and affairs and that there is not any longer a necessity for a committee of his person and property…”

My patient, George Douglas Clarke has stated that the only information he knows of his great-grandfather is that Chester had little or no contact with his family from 1904 to the date of his death which was on the 23rd day of October, 1925 in Binghamton. And, that the reason for Chester’s committal to the State Hospital was not talked of by anyone in his family all the way back to his great-grandmother, Agnes K.C. Bond.

I appreciate your assistance in this matter, and hope that I will hear from you soon.


Sherry S Herdman, MS FNP CDE

Ordination Testimony

NOTE: You should know that I chose a tune called "Stepping Stones" to be played as part of the ordination ceremony. Several people remarked that it was quite moving. I'll post the lyrics at the end of my "testimony". You can sample Dougie MacLean's music at

Ordination Testimony

Anyone who knows me knows that giving me 10 minutes and a microphone is a dangerous proposition. You know you’re going to hear some history. So let me just apologize right now and get it out of the way.

My ancestors first began to come to Allegany County in the 1820s and 30s. They were farmers and teachers who worked hard to build churches that would nurture future generations in the way that Christ called us to walk. They built each other’s homes, and met in homes until they were able to build churches and schools for their growing communities. They believed that all their children should go to school and learn, so they could all build good lives for themselves, and for their children.

Please permit me to drop a few names, but I’ll try to be brief:

Our great-great-great-great-grandfather, Captain Benjamin Maxson, brought his children to Little Genesee in November of 1827, and helped build the old church that stood until only a few years ago, when it burned. His grand-daughter Mary, moved to Alfred when her husband helped build the home on South Main Street that we all call “33”. Great-great-great-grandfather George Sherman and his family came to Alfred in 1836, and created the farm where the Actons now live. His son-in-law, Samuel Stillman, created the farm where the MacCreas now live, and his children gave money they’d earned by selling milk and cheese, to put a clock in the Firemens’ Hall. They gave money in their father’s memory to provide scholarships for young men and women to attend Alfred University. Our great-grandfather, A.B. Kenyon, came as a student intending to return to his home in Rhode Island after he earned his degree, but stayed here instead. He taught mathematics and surveying, and was Registrar and Dean of Alfred University. He designed and directed the building of what is now Camp Harley Sutton’s Burdick Lodge, which was the University’s first gymnasium before it was moved to the camp. My grandfather, Ford S. Clarke, taught Sociology at the University, and was the first Scoutmaster of Troop 19. My grandmother taught Home Economics at what later became Alfred State College. My father, as you probably know, pastored five churches and led the Missionary and Christian Education boards of the denomination. These are my stepping-stones.

I can still recall the restlessness I felt when I was younger than our son is now, at being required to come to church, when I would rather have been running around outside. I’m certain I was the first and only little boy to ever feel those things, of course.

I can remember crawling under the pews, and playing “HangMan” in the back pew. I remember the triumph of discovering words like “Czechoslovakia”, which won the game for me until my opponents learned them. I remember hating having to wear a suit and tie to church. I rankled at not being permitted to watch television from Friday evening until Sabbath evening. But it was black and white back then, anyway – not “living color” and high definition. It was Edward R. Murrow, and Walter Cronkite, and Fess Parker, and the world was quite different.

I remember my impatience with such things, but I also remember having a sense that what Mom and Dad and others were trying to tell me were things to which I should pay attention. I don’t think I was ever a really bad kid, but there were things I’d been told not to do, that got done, anyway. The admonitions and instruction must have begun to sink in, however.

I remember sitting in Sabbath School classes with Bill Parry as teacher, and how his calm and gentle manner invited me to listen and to speak, as few others could. One day I drew a sketch of him that I treasure because, when I look at it, it can still take me back to those days, and to the calm assurance he conveyed to us. The stories of Jesus’ life were the ones that touched me most deeply. It was that personal connection, of trying to imagine what his life was like, that drew me in.

I remember looking forward to being permitted to take the communion bread and juice, after I asked to be baptized and made a member of the church. I remember sitting in the Tower Room of the Parish House with my father and Jere Rase and Eric Van Horn, to discuss the little orange book on church membership, which we all had to conquer before we were permitted to take the leap of baptism.

I still remember my father “dunking” me and Jere and Eric in the baptismal pool, right here, thirty-nine years ago I reckon it was. I remember the joy I felt at getting there.

I participated in the Junior Choir and finally graduated to the Senior Choir, when my voice stopped croaking and CHANGED. I wanted to be an usher so I could walk in rhythm with the three other ushers, and show that I could collect the offering as well as the older men. Synchronized walking, it was. I took interest and pride in coming to business meetings and participating in the discussion, and in being able to VOTE, like a grown-up. I still didn’t like to wear a suit, though.

I remember our father asking me to lead the “Friendly Forum” Sabbath School class for a time. Here I was in my late teens, being asked to lead a Bible Study and discussion, in a room of white-haired men and women. I remember my nervousness – and perhaps intimidation – that was so quickly followed by delight at finding those elders eager to discuss things, without answers already arrived at. I was absolutely swollen with pride when I was complimented afterward, for having led interesting and fruitful discussions.

After two years of college, I tried to earn enough money to return to college and go overseas, but as anyone who has tried to make a living in Allegany County knows, it hasn’t ever been easy. A friend helped me get a job in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, so I left all my family and other friends behind, and spent nearly a decade there, working and still trying to finish my degree. For those years, I was a lone Sabbathkeeper until I married Jeanette. This church had its share of upheavals in my absence, and I remember my parents’ letters describing their anguish at all of that. When I started dating Jeanette, I told her I wanted to come home and look after my parents as they aged.

Jeanette decided she was amenable to that, so we were married in May of 1988 and moved to Alfred to live, three months later. For twenty years, now, we have been active in this church that nurtured me in my youth. We have endeavored to be part of this church’s rejuvenation, so that future generations will have the same anchor for their faith, which we have had.

In those twenty years, I’ve been Trustee, committee member, Treasurer, Assistant Treasurer, President, bell-ringer, usher, sound system technician, custodian, and repairman. I’ve led tours of the buildings for students and visitors, played guitar and sung hymns, and filled the pulpit when the pastor is absent. I’ve picked up beer bottles and scooped dog poop from the church lawn, and worried when windows got vandalized or lights got left on.

I’m not telling this to brag. Perhaps I’m admitting that I’m jack of all trades and master of none. But I’m really telling all this because these are the things that are so badly needed in a small church, and I’ve felt called to do them. I would rather be building something big and new if I could, and doing something more exciting, but this is a small, old church, and its survival depends on those few of us who are here now. It can’t be a hope for the future unless we are God’s hands and feet, here and now. What is happening here, right now, is affirmation of all that I’ve just told you.

I love this church, because it has stood for so many things that I believe Christ called us to stand for, no matter what the cost.

The people of this church believed in education, and its members gave all they had to build and maintain schools and have their children educated. This church supported the Theological School, which trained men and women to be pastors. We have one of the few Seventh Day Baptist pastors who happens to be a woman, today.

Darwin Maxson, who was a member here for many years, wrote articles for the Sabbath Recorder proclaiming that all men and women are children of God. His home was a station on the Underground Railroad that conveyed people to places where they might find equality of opportunity. Maxson presented an amendment to the church constitution on November 7, 1858, striking the word "male" from Article 3, thus opening the door to women becoming voting members. Women were invited to speak to the question but not vote, in February, and the vote was 22 to 12, in favor, but there were not enough to meet the constitutional requirement of 2/3 majority. The question was renewed in 1860, by Jonathan Allen, but was withdrawn. Finally, on the 24th of May, 1874, a motion put forward by O.D. Sherman did pass with only one dissenting vote. Three years later, a motion was made to allow women to be deaconesses. It was ten years after THAT (1889), that one of my great-grandmother's sisters, Madelia Stillman, was installed as one of the first deaconesses.

Our father also grew up in this church, and he remembered the cold, wintry day in 1929 when smoke began wafting up through the floor here, and he and all the other children were quickly but calmly ushered out of the building by Fritjoff Hildebrand. In fighting that fire which could have destroyed this building, all the stained-glass windows were destroyed by firefighters. It was a good thing that the donations given to replace them, were given in memory of this church’s human pillars, and plaques were put at the base of each window to remind us what they built for our benefit. I invite you to look at them when you have a chance. We have short biographies of those people, if you are interested.

I chose long ago to live as Christ would have me live, but with every year that has passed, I have come to appreciate each of the generations since Christ’s time, who have worked to find his truth, anew, in the living of their lives. I choose to live in that tradition, that faith that first called me so many years ago. My hope and prayer is to be a stepping stone for others. I trust that He who led those who came before, will continue to lead me, and us, as well.

G. Douglas Clarke September 6, 2008

Stepping Stones

So much time has gone
since we worked out in these open fields
With the hope of generations pulled around us
and a strength revealed
And so much has been done since we ran around the Snaigow wood
Never knowing where our gentle lights might lead us
Or indeed they could.

And we do not stand alone
I know we stand with all the others
Out in the deep unknown
I know we stand upon their stepping stones

Sure and simple souls
guarded round us as we worldly grew
With nothing greater than what working days
might show them they gave us all they knew
And though their dreams were small
O their true and rural hearts were strong

And with an honest smile
that burns from somewhere distant
They helped us all along


And in these silent hours
when reflection lays our journey down
And we think on all departed conversations
It’s such an earthy sound


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

doug pride, growing, changing

I am delighted that you could be at Doug's ordination and I'm so glad he shared his text. Perhaps he'll put it here too. Sometimes it feels like a downhill slide and sometimes it's really upness that one feels, climbing or no.

I just talked to the head of HR here in the libraries and she said the guy in the Provost's Office about has the details ready to send me the letter or form or whatever to shift from active duty (if you'll forgive a military analogy, if *I* will forgive a military analogy) to sabbatical on January 1st of 2009. Soon, I have an appointment with someone in central HR about details but sabbatical actually keeps things going more or less evenly for 2009 as far as benefits go. It's more in 2010 (if I should live so long) that I need to shift to retirement benefits.

Ever onward with love and peace....

Passage/New stage of life

Dear readers, 
I was proud to represent the Clarke family at Doug's ordination on September sixth.  Mom and Dad would have been so proud!  (Some say they felt their spirits in the church.  I bet Mom was crying with a mother's pride.)  Doug's "testimony" (or whatever you call it) spoke of his upbringing in Alfred and in the First Alfred SDB church.  Guess what, surprise, surprise,  he included a bunch of history.  I learned a thing or two that I did not know about my "baby brother" and I know all of you would have too, for most of us were not there when he was growing up.  It was moving to see Pastor Ken Chroniger and others from the Alfred Station Church participate in the "laying on of hands".  I do not know all the names, so I will not try to list them.  It was an honor to have Pastor Camenga (chief of the Bd of Ed) speak from our pulpit.  Pastor Pat was "glowing" afterward as leader of the service.   In a way, this is a "coming of age" for Doug, a passage if you will.  I am glad that I was able to be there in person and wish everyone else could have been too.
Love you,

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's about time . . .

Well, siblings, our father was the last elder of the 1st Seventh Day Baptist Church of Alfred, New York, but Tim Bancroft will be considered for ordination as an elder, in October. A month before that, your youngest brother is going to be ordained a deacon (on September 6th). I'll be asked to give a testimony, and there will be some other speechifying and music and so on, and you're all invited if you'd like to come.
My ordination will simply mean that all the things I have been doing on behalf of the church for years, will be affirmed, at least in some respects, by the membership of the church and the surrounding S.D.B. churches. It means I may be asked to help with serving communion, which Jeanette already does as a deaconess, but I have not done before. It also means I'll be part of the Advisory Board, which serves to advise the pastor and support her. Maybe now the board will have regular meetings, as they are supposed to do. But I won't get started on that . . .
I think you all know that, although Jeanette and I continue to work for, and be a part of, the Alfred church, we have had our misgivings about continuing to be a part of both the local congregation, and of the denomination, because of the narrowing of minds therein. We've also had our frustrations with being treated badly at times, but we continue to hope that our efforts will mean that Ian will have the company of like-minded S.D.B.s with whom he can carry on in Alfred, or at least he will be able to point to his own history there and see something positive.
Many times over the years of my life, I have been asked if I have ever considered being a pastor like our father. I've often replied that I have never given it much consideration, and I have only done so briefly, and infrequently. I never felt called to be an evangelizer, but I have often said that I like company. I never felt called to be on that sort of pedestal of piety and single-mindedness that seems to be expected of a pastor, even though I've sometimes felt that I could do it better than some who have tried to be my pastor. I'm not that sort of shepherd, but Jeanette and I have tried to draw people into the circle of our congregation and to make it a real circle of trust and love, in spite of doubts and misgivings.
Our father's evangelism was not overt, but exemplified what I've heard several people say was what they liked best about S.D.B.s, and that is that they didn't try to ram their religion down your throat. They just live(d) it.
I also hope that we can preserve and promote the kinds of loving, liberal values that our father and mother exemplified. Especially in these times, I believe that our world needs the kinds of gentleness and openness that Mom and Dad practiced. I don't want any of us, nor our children or grandchildren, to be doormats, as I'm afraid our father and mother were at times, but I am certain that the attitudes of entitlement and self-aggrandizement that we all see in the society around us, need to be challenged and balanced.
I hope that my ordination and our continued participation can help in that process.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Just wanted to let you know

If you're getting this in an e-mail, it means I've added your name to the distribution list, so any time there's a new post, you get it by e-mail, too. But I just instituted this, so there are other posts you won't see unless you go to the blog. If you don't want these to come by e-mail, let me know.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Talk about Connections!

So, you all know I went to C.B.'s memorial. One of the speakers is the new owner of H.O.B. Hill (what H.O. and Hannah Burdick reserved for themselves, after donating land for Camp Harley Sutton), Sheila Flanagan. In her remembrance, she spoke of having been C.B.'s student back in 1975, as a freshman at A.U. This all was after Cathy had told me she knew Sheila as an A.K.O. sister, but I had not yet met her (unless I did back in 1975-76, when I was a freshman at A.U., also).
I talked with Sheila after the remembrance formalities were done, and she told me how C.B.'s sons, Peter and Chris, and daughter Anna, would have just thrown almost all of her things away. Sheila told them to just put most of them at the farmhouse. She agreed to show me anything that might be of value to me, after I told her of our family connections. We got along famously, immediately. We weren't sure that we remembered each other from our freshman year, but agreed about everything we discussed.
The next day, at the burial of C.B.'s ashes, I read a poem I had composed (and is posted here at the blog), and chatted with Anna and Peter and C.B.'s sister, Judy. Then Dan Seiss-Rain, who I remembered being a student in Environmental Studies right after I graduated from A.U., came over to talk with me. Since my poem had mentioned connections to C.B., he asked if I might know where his grandfather and other family members were buried. I inquired who they were, and he told me his grandfather was Addison Scholes, and I told him he had been best friends with our Uncle K. when they were young. With some help from Keith Rogers, I took him to the Scholes graves and left him alone, but I had gotten his e-mail address and so on.
Next, I went with the other folks from C.B.'s graveside service, to Ben and Robin Howard's house, which most of you would remember being Gordon and Helen Ogden's. I chatted with the Burdicks and few others, and then Ben engaged me, at length, in conversation. We had always had warm conversations before, but always brief. This time he told me that he had learned quite a bit from my Bergren Forum presentation on Alfred S.D.B. history, and it went from there. As a result, I may begin going to his Zazen sessions, and we agreed to take a walk up the hillside to look at the property currently owned by our church, that I had suggested might be a nice spot for a Zen temple. It's above the end of Green Street, up behind Kappa Psi, which I understand has been purchased by Alfred State College for use as a welcome center, and has no street access. It has a nice view, and might be just fabulous for Ben's group.
All of these connections have helped my sagging spirits, so I wanted to share them with you.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Something for C.B.

Her mother calls
him “Cousin” and
flatters a wee lad.

A young boy wishes
he could play tennis
as she and Dad do.

A teenager repairs,
paints and mows;
her trust helps him grow.

A college kid winters
in tipi, mid-meadow;
her message: “far out”
stomped into snow.

To Mass(Achusetts) and back he takes her;
her blizzard trial’s a frightening reminder,
but she lets him get her home safely.

An old student sits as
her student, and finds HIS
“Place in HER Universe”.

To see what filled her book.
this man need only look
to HIS parents’ declines.

An aging man knows
if she said you had a book in you
NOW is when to get it out of you.

Time doesn’t come;
it mostly just goes;
regret wastes more time,
as any WOman knows.

So now, with all the others
a “faithful relation”
waves salutation:

Goodnight, my dear cousin.
Good night.

copyright 2008 G. Douglas Clarke April 25, 2008

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Time for an update!

Hi siblings and so on!

I recently posted something on my Facebook profile, that had come to me: "The saddest thing about living is to lose the ones you love, and to awaken to the attrition of kindred souls."

This is something that has been wearing at me for years, little by little. And now with our cousin, David Winton Clarke, dying; then a 1976 classmate (Jim Comes) dying just before his fiftieth birthday, this past week. Then, in the background (for me, at least) Dan Fogelberg (who wrote some wonderful music that accompanied me in my teens and twenties) and Arthur C. Clarke, whose short stories and books were my favorites in earlier years, died recently.
Then, just in the last two days, we've learned that Warda Vincent Mauro (a little older than Dad, former Alfredian, church member from a distance, etc.) died. On top of all that, we've learned that our cousin, Carol Burdick (CB) has pancreatic cancer, and likely won't live long, perhaps only a few months.
All that has affected me, but at least I am happy to say "Happy Birthday" to Cathy, and to tell you that Jeanette's car has a nearly-new engine in it and will get its body repaired this week. Now if we can get it paid off and get some good years of driving out of it . . .

Anyway, CB looked frail when I went to her book-signing a week or so ago, and someone told me only a few days later that they heard she had terminal cancer. Today, Donna Rogers told us that CB had told her so, herself. She evidently was quite matter-of-fact about it, as I would expect. So, if you want to say anything to her or ask her anything, I suggest you do so, pronto. If you need her address, I'm sure that if you address correspondence to CB, Pondhouse Inhabitant, Camp Harley Sutton Road, Alfred Station, NY 14803, it will get there.
I still have, saved on the answering machine, the message she left when she learned that Dad had died. Unless my memory has failed me, she said: "Doug, I just learned about your father, and I just wanted to tell you I'm so sorry. [voice cracks] He was a wonderful man. And he would NOT approve of my crying now . . ." I have never felt terribly close to CB but we have always been cordial and I really enjoyed taking her "A Place In The Universe" class (on environmental literature). She wrote in my copy of her book "Haps and Mishaps" something to the effect that I've been a loyal cousin and she likes that, and likes me.
One thing I was quite fond of, back when I was in my late teens and early twenties, was to watch CB and Dad play tennis on the courts near South Hall. They would meet early in the morning and just go at it, not angry and competitive and not just whacking the ball around, either. They both played well, moved well, and had genuine fun doing it for the exercise and the time to talk, I think. They seemed to be very evenly matched, but I couldn't keep up with Dad: he seemed to stay mostly in the middle of the court and return everything I sent his direction.

Back to the present, Sherm and I have been talking about when he might "retire" to Alfred, what part of "33" he would inhabit, and what we might do with the rest of the house (like sell used books, and/or rent rooms). Maybe this year, maybe three or four years from now?

I'm working on my outline and PowerPoint presentation for the April 24th Bergren Forum, which will be part of the Alfred Bicentennial series of events. Jeanette worked extra hours the last few weeks, earning "extra" money on a project, and starts tutoring a pregnant student for two hours after school, every day, this week. Ian starts his mentorship with Betsy Brooks soon, learning how to catch (in mist nets) songbirds, measure and weigh and band them. I'll be taking him up to the Lake Ontario shore to a banding station so he can help Betsy set up nets, and he should get a chance to at least observe raptor banding in April, during the peak migration period. I'm thrilled that Betsy was eager to do this with him, and LOVE that I get to learn stuff and go along, too!! He's been saying for years that he wants to work with animals and invent stuff, so I thought this would be a great start, even if he ends up working with alligators later on, because he'll develop real skills, developed at an early age, and build on the obvious ability he has with animals.
We're waiting for winter to let go of us, so we can start working on the house more readily, not have to be so concerned with weather and road conditions, and so Jeanette's joints won't hurt so much. The CPAP seems to be helping her get better rest, but her mask is not optimized yet, so she's not getting the full benefit. Antibiotics pretty well took care of my infected gum, but I'm flossing and brushing and water-picking and rinsing and using a syringe with salt water, to keep from losing a tooth to bone degeneration. Jeanette has lost some more weight and Dr. Coch is working with her to get her A1Cs down to better levels (related to diabetes), and she may need knee surgery before long. I'm trying to exercise more regularly, so I've been skiing a few times and Ian and Nicky and I took a two-hour walk today, and may have found bear tracks!

Anyway, we hope you're all well, and that you'll be in touch soon!!!!!


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Needed a boost . . .

Hi Family,
I have regretted not getting anything posted here for quite a while, but had, quite frankly, been on a low personal ebb (depressed?) and was preoccupied with multiple car and other difficulties which didn't let up for a frustratingly long time. I know, that was a long sentence, and I know I'm not the only one dealing with stuff. That's just how it was feeling.
But then, a few days ago, several events seemed to help lift my spirits, in spite of the fact that Jeanette's car (we've decided to drive it minimally until repairs are set up or another vehicle available for her) didn't want to start, and then the hood didn't want to close after I jump-started it, Monday morning.
First of all, what we were able to learn of Mike and Sue's adventure in Alaska and their finishing well in the Yukon Quest, had us swelling with pride. Before that, my colonoscopy had not been difficult and revealed that I didn't have any polyps or diverticuli and should not need another intrusion for ten years, and that was all good news. Being one of the presenters in an Alfred Bicentennial event (we told the history of Alfred's two fire companies) was fun and fulfilling. Did you know that I joined the A.E. Crandall Hook and Ladder Company almost exactly 100 years after they saved 33 South Main from greater damage of possible destruction? The tool shed, perhaps as the result of a Halloween prank, had caught fire and scorched the back of the house. According to Jean Lang's monograph, the fire was November 2, 1894, and I joined the company in the summer of 1993. The company's first chief was W.H. Crandall, A.E.'s nephew (and husband of Chester S. Clarke's nephew, I think).
Speaking of Chester, I went to Belmont last week to get a tour of Allegany County's historical records, from the county historian, Craig Braack. I was pretty sure I knew about most of them, but I wanted to see some historical-type people I hadn't seen for a while, and thought I might learn something. I did. Years ago, I had learned that each county should keep a record of a judge's decision to commit any resident to Willard Asylum, where Chester was rumored to have gone. But I had struck out in trying to find any record at that time, having asked the historian and others, years ago, where I would find a record of Chester being committed. As part of the tour, we went to the Surrogate's Court records (where I had filed the initial statement regarding Dad's estate, and now need to file a final report), and asked if their records would contain information on Chester's commitment. I was told that it should be in the Superior Court records, so I went to those files after our group was done touring.
I knew that Chester was reported to have been moved out of the family home in 1905, that he showed up in Binghamton Business directories beginning about 1913 (as a shoe-repairman), that cousin Neil Clarke had visited him there at some point and been told "don't bring him back here", and that he had died in 1925. Census records show that he was living alone in Alfred in 1910. Carol fairly recently had found that shoe-making was one of the therapeutic things that Willard "inmates" were given to do.
As for why Chester was sent to Willard, what I remember Dad saying was that Uncle Clarence and Grandpa (Ford) put him out of the house because he was verbally abusive. Anger management problems? Low blood sugar resulting in extreme crabbiness? Depression? Bipolar, leading to psychosis? Maybe Ophelia was overbearing and he reacted poorly to her?
Anyway, after the tour ended, I looked in the book of Superior Court records where I thought 1905 would be, and I think the first or second book I opened referenced "in the matter of Clarke, Chester S." in the index. I found that one and a second one, and I will transcribe a portion of each below:
"At a special term of the Superior Court held at the Court House in the city of Rochester New York . . . on the 20th day of May, 1905, present Hon. Nathaniel Foote, Justice . . . in the matter of the appointment of a Committee of the person and estate of Chester S. Clark[sic] an alleged incompetent person and an inmate of the Willard State Hospital, on reading and filing the petition of Robert M. Elliott, Superintendent of the Willard State Hospital . . . duly verified on the 6th day of April, 1905, asking for the appointment of a committee . . . the said Chester S. Clark was duly committed to said Hospital as an incompetent on the 5th day of July, 1904 admitted thereto on the 8th day of July, 1904, and is now an inmate . . . at the time of commitment was a resident of the town of Alfred, State of New York and that he has the following property namely an undivided one-half interest in 230 acres of land in the town of Alfred which interest will not exceed $3000.00 in value . . . it appears that said Chester S. Clark is married and that no committee of his person or estate has been appointed . . . Ordered that D.S. Burdick of the town of Alfred . . . is hereby appointed committee of the person and estate of the said Chester S. Clark . . ."
The second one says "At a special term of the Supreme Court held at the Court House in the Village of Belmont, NY. . . on the third day of September 1907, Present, Hon. Truman C. White, justice presiding . . . in the matter of Chester S. Clarke, an incompetent person, upon the coming in of the Referee's report in this proceeding, dated the 18th day of July 1907, by which it appears that the said Chester S. Clarke has so far recovered his mental capacity as to be capable of managing his person and affairs and that there is not any longer a necessity for a committee of his person and property and after hearing Crayton L. Earley attorney for the petitioner and Eldyn Reynolds of counsel for the committee D. S. Burdick . . . ordered that the said committee . . . be discharged."
Ok, so what does all this mean? That, perhaps because Ophelia (Chester's wife) did not do anything about it, the court appointed someone to look after Chester's property until he was again deemed competent, or was judged to be permanently incompetent. D.S. Burdick may be Dighton Burdick, whose farm (I believe) is the one just up the hill from the Alfred State College farm pond. I remember "Scotty" Bill MacCrea saying something about a connection with that farm, so I'll call him and ask what he remembers, and check on the property records to see if I'm right. I haven't waded through all the "legal-ese" but it may mean that D.S. Burdick was to make any of Chester's assets that were available, payable to the state, in exchange for his being an inmate at Willard.
I am working on a letter to the state, asking to be given copies of Chester's Willard records. I had been told that I couldn't even apply until I knew when he was admitted, but I first started looking about 15 years ago. I sure wish I could ask Gram about that. Ruth Norwood didn't recall anything when I asked her, years ago, and now she can barely speak. I think I'll ask all the old people I know around here, if they know anything, at all about it. Anyway, I am hopeful that now we may be able to get some understanding of what happened. Maybe I'll write a book about it, too (in my spare time).
I wanted to get this posted and let you know that some things are looking up, some things are being celebrated, and that we're doing ok. We spent most of the past weekend at Carol and Barb's, and it was nice to take walks with Nicky and Buddy and Ian and Carol, to eat a celebratory meal honoring Mike and Sue's success, and to relax a bit. Thanks, ladies!
I hope Mike and Sue and the dogs can stop over for a few days on their way home!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year's day

Hello family,

Goodbye to 2007. I hate that the year is already gone, because I hate that that much more time has elapsed, but I wish a difficult year "good riddance".

It was good to see all who were able to come to Alfred between Christmas and New Year's eve. We were glad to have a longer stretch with Sherm and Carol and Barb, but even that was too short to get to all the things I would have liked to do. We sure wish Cathy and Bert could have stayed longer, and we missed seeing nieces and nephews and Bruce, but wish you all well. I hope we can all get together this summer and have some leisure time, whether it's at our place or Keuka Lake or a southern beach or wherever. I think it would be nice to get some of the cousins together and make connections.

At 33 S. Main, I had worked to consolidate stuff from two downstairs closets into a third (the one off the downstairs bathroom) so those two closets were mostly emptied. Sending 6 or 8 boxes of fabric remnants home with Bert leaves room to put the boxes of photograph albums from all over the house in there so they can be worked on without taking up living space. It was great to spend time looking through the albums and identifying people and talking about how to proceed with them. I will place an order to Gaylord or someplace similar, for archival photograph album pages, soon. Then I can begin to transfer photographs to archival albums, and start captioning and organizing them. I'll also be able to scan the choicest images and post them on the web and/or print them on photographic paper for whoever wants them.

I had also gotten a bunch of the computer peripherals (which I'd scavenged from various places but most were proving unusable for us) out onto the porch, ready to hand off to a guy who re-builds computers for people who can't afford new ones. More can come out of the front room upstairs when the first load gets delivered or picked up.

I got the washing machine set up yesterday, so we'll get linens and towels washed and put up before we head home. Jeanette is working on that and on making turkey soup from the carcass. Ian and Rein are playing and I've been getting a few other things done. I'll have to write out checks for the bills for 33 and get stuff filed, and then call Guthrie Hospital about how to settle Dad's bill. Jeanette will be paying our bills, and she heads back to the routine tomorrow, and Ian on Thursday. I'll haul the old washer and some of the other junk out back, to the landfill later this week.

As soon as I can, I will clear our stuff from the middle room, but I also have to get Dad's files consolidated and figure out where to put them. If I get a de-humidifier then perhaps I can set up file cabinets in the basement. At least the Shedrick stuff is gone, but I know I can clear a bunch of other stuff out. Then there's the garage full of stuff for a yard sale, as soon as the weather breaks in the spring. And maybe we can sell the RV then. Anyway, I plan to convert the center room to a pleasant living and working space. I hope to organize the books and figure out which ones might be given away, although perhaps some can be sold. Some will go to family members, and I'm thinking the theological books might be donated to the denomination as a collection, as they would include A.J.C. Bond's and Dad's and perhaps others'.

My plan, and I think we are in concert about this, is to get Sherm's books and things moved downstairs and have the lower apartment available for family members or gatherings. This will leave the upstairs partially furnished, but rentable, so that will help pay expenses.

Carol, thank you for pledging to contribute to the house fund. And have fun transcribing and compiling all the old recipes (Mom's, Gram's, Aunt Dora's, and maybe Mary K.M. Babcock's?). I hope you can make them available on-line, somehow. As I said to you, it has crossed my mind that we could put together quite a cookbook if the three or four generations of recipes you took home, were put together in some interesting fashion.

Have you all seen the Alfred House History website? Here's a link: From here, click on the dark purple rectangle that represents 33 S. Main, and on the next page, click on "History File", to see what I submitted for the project, which is tied loosely in with Alfred's bicentennial celebrations. Speaking of that, I (with Pat Bancroft) will be giving a Bergren Forum talk on April 24th (if that's a Thursday) on the history of Alfred Seventh Day Baptists. I will share the text of that with you.

I called Alfred State yesterday and learned that someone with a Master's degree was chosen for the adjunct position for the spring semester. I could wish I had a Master's, but haven't finished paying for my Bachelor's. Adjunct pay would seem an insult if I had a Master's, but more opportunities might be available if I did. I have inquired about University of Arizona Online and Goddard College, and just found that Empire State College DOES have Master's programs. Anyway, I'm going to take Sherm's advice and prepare some presentations and send out inquiries, offering to give them at various places. I need to finally get serious about selling books on-line, as well, but I despair of finding a "real job" after the past two years. I do keep looking and applying, though.

In any case, Happy New Year.