August 31, 2007

Hancock Shaker Village

Founded in the 1700’s near Pittsfield, MA, Hancock Shaker Village is now a living history museum. This beautifully restored village that is home to a premier collection of Shaker buildings and artifacts. Like most Shaker communities, the design for the buildings and furnishings were driven by function and utility.

The round stone barn is an architectural gem and the only Shaker barn of its kind. Built in 1826, its circular design was a model of efficiency. Hay was unloaded from wagons into a wooden lined central storage area on the top floor. One level down, cattle were kept in stanchions, which radiated outward from a central manger. At the bottom level lay the manure pit, accessible by wagon.

The Shaker population reached its peak in the mid-19th century, with an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 Shakers. Strict believers in celibacy, Shakers maintained their numbers through conversion and adoption of orphans. Turnover was very high; the group reached maximum size of about 6,000 full members in 1850, but now has only four members left.
The Shakers became known as Shakers because of the trembling, whirling, and shaking that affected them during their spiritually ecstatic worship services. They believed that Christ's second coming was realized in their leader, Ann Lee, whom they called Mother Ann. The Shakers also believed in racial and gender equality, simplicity, and pacifism. They dedicated their lives to creating a working Heaven on Earth amidst the boundless opportunities presented by settlement of the New World.

The Shakers' mission was to live a perfect Christian life as portrayed in the Gospels and in the early Christian communities. The Shakers based their religion and their lives on celibacy, communal living, and the confession of sin. They attempted to attain spiritual and temporal simplicity, meekness, pacifism and perfection in all aspects of their lives.

The best-known Shaker beliefs are an emphasis on celibacy and simplicity in their daily lives. Women took an equal stance with the men in the Society. Celibacy was also part of the Shaker's efforts to build a more unified community by suppressing all individuality. At the core of this concept was the ideal of simplicity in all things -- dress, food and living arrangements. Thus everyone wore old-fashioned clothes of similar plain cut, women kept their hair severely simple, and the two genders lived in large dormitories.

Though they expressed an unspoken love of beauty in their music and the quality of their furniture, neither was created solely for beauty. The music was used to reinforce the importance of God over the individual and the furniture was designed to be functional and non-intrusive, so as not to detract from the work or worship occurring in the rooms containing those furnishings.

Shakers were ahead of their time as they advocated a healthy lifestyle that encouraged spiritual serenity, balanced work and rest, and limited use of alcohol and tobacco. Shakers were widely respected for their knowledge of healing plants. Most communities cultivated their own extensive botanical gardens. Some villages developed thriving industries in the production of herbal remedies.

Shaker worship consisted of singing and dancing. The sect’s name came from the motions that early members made in spiritual ecstasy. Men in rows on the east faced women on the west. Shakers traditionally sang hymns without instruments for the sake of simplicity. Their meeting houses were mostly open space with an altar in the middle so that the initially spontaneous and later highly ritualized ecstatic experiences and dancing could be performed during worship services. Such excessive behavior was frowned upon by other Christian denominations and was a large part of the Shakers' radical reputation.

Children came into the community when their parents joined the community or when their parents died or could no longer take care of them. Shaker children went to school for 3 months, did chores and learned trades. When they reached the age of 18, they could choose to become Shakers or leave for the world. Typically no more than 10 percent of the children cared for lived their lives out as believers.

The Shakers developed a wide variety of crafts, trades, and industries, including woodworking and metalworking, basketry, broom making, and much more. They developed their own water-powered mills for grinding grain, sawing wood, and manufacturing textiles. The Shakers were highly regarded for their honesty and industriousness, and for the quality of their products, which were marketed throughout the region as an important source of income for the communal society.

August 25, 2007

Riders Mill NY - History of Sam's Grandfather

For many years I have wondered about the early history of my Grandfather, Samuel Fry, Sr....known to me as "Pops" (I am the 3rd). Since Pops died when I was 5, I recall very little about him, except that he loved Christmas, swiming & the water, and flowers. He and my Grandmother, "Momie" raised mums for All Saints Day each year.

My cousin, Dorothy Hebert, "DA" was the oldest of the cousins when Pops was alive, and was very close to him. Over the years DA has maintained a search for the geneology of Pops, and has the best recolection in the family of his early days.

About all she knew before I went on this search, was that he was born December 24, 1883 in or near Manchester, England. He was orphaned along with two sisters, Annie & Selenea and a brother, Ely at the age of 2 when parents were killed in a carriage accident. The children were accepted by the Swinton Industrial School (Orphanage) in Manchester on December 24, 1885.

It is interesting to note that this is one of the Orphanages that Charles Dickens had visited & wrote about.

From his stories told to her (DA), and an inscription in his personal prayer book of common prayers, given to him at his confirmation, while at Swinton, which DA still has! It was givento him in March of 1896 at age 13 she suspects, right before came to Canada via ship, either as a stowaway or sent by the labor unions. She remebered that he worked in Thousand Islands for a man named Shipman, paddling tourist there. He was not satisfied with the job, but while paddling either tourist or perhaps fishermen, met a man named Rider from New York in 1900, who offered to help him get a better job. All she could remember was that last name, and that Pops left Thousand Islands and miraculously found this Rider in New York, and ended up working in his home in Riders Mills, New York from 1901 through 1905 or ‘06. She said he always praised the Riders for taking him in, and making him feel like part of their family. Mr Rider also sent Pops to Cornell, probably to one of their agricultural courses, since years later he would work at a dairy in Louisiana.

This search and subsequent visit to New York, all started when I found this internet link with the phrase "Rider's Mills" in it. After contacting the head of the association last year, I that there was a promenent Rider family presence in the area at the turn of the century, and that it wasn't too far from Thousand Island.

With that info and contact, Kim & I found Rider's Mills, NY and the schoolhouse just up the road from the farmhouse where I thought Pops had been.

The owners of the Jonathan B Rider home were very helpful, and gave us a tour of the home, including the barn which had been a dairy before! This seemed to fit perfectly with what I knew, so far. So intially, I suspected Jonathan B was "the Rider" that had helped Pops.

Kim & I really enjoyed this area of New York, it is near Chatham (picture below), and is pretty much the same as 100 or more years ago! Very quaint roilling farmlands, beautiful winding carriage roads, small hamlets & villages, and very friendly residents. Kinderhook Creek and the remains of the old Riders Mills Covered Bridge are still there. The mills were destroyed years ago by floods, which eventually took out the dam and the bridge.

As the week unfolded, I met the current owner of the Edward W Rider home, across Kinderhook Creek from the 1st home, and actually located nearer to the site of the original mill. Nill (the current owner) was extremely helpful, invited us into his home and pulled out stacks of old records & photos of the house and the area. Bill suggested that Edward Rider (and this home) were a better fit to Pops story. In the end this would prove to be true!

Edward had purchased his Father’s (Thomas B. Rider II) house at 14 Bachus Road in 1900 as a summer or weekend home. He worked in Brooklyn during the week, and commuted to Riders Mills on weekends via train. Edward had two spinster sisters, Helena (Lena) and Jane, who lived in the house until they died (1927 & 19?? Respectively). Here is the house and barn as they look today.

Bill explained that he ahd taken the porch off years ago, because of severe rotting. There was still some uncertainty, but Bill produced a print of a watercolor done by Nathaniel Wyeth of "the Rider's Mills Covered Bridge", which very clearly showed the house in the background. I had recently converted all the old family b&w photos onto DVD's, and that night found this photo simply marked "Farm" that matched perfectly. You can even see the old barn in the back, left...and Kinderhook Creek, just where it still stands today! It was probably taken from the bridge. Over the many years, my Sister & I had no idea of what or where that was from.

After more research, suggested by the town historian, I found Samuel Fry listed in the June 1, 1905 NY State Census* as “Servant”, White, Male, 19 yrs of age, born in England, 4 years in US, and a Citizen, although he did not officially become one until the mid-40’s. The records list Helena as “Head” of house, Jane as “Sister”. No other residents are shown on the record. So, Bill was right, and the story was true...I had found the closest thing that Pops ever had to a home and family during his early years here in this country!

Undoubtedly, Pops lived in the this one, the Thomas B. house, with the two Sisters, and probably also worked in the dairy, across the creek and perhaps helped in the Jonathan B. house also (the first one up above). We went on to discover the gravesites of Edward, Jane & Helena at an old cemetary a few miles away.

With a helpful tip from another resident, and some searching on the internet, we also learned that The Glen House, which is now a well-known vacation complex, was originally opened to fishermen by its owner, Wallace Shipman, in 1897 (a few months after Pops came over from England) and that used young laborers from there as help for the resort.

During the early years, most guests were Americans from Rochester and Syracuse, New York. They would travel to Clayton by the New York Central Railroad and cross the river in the Glen House boat to stay for the summer. The boat used then was the St Lawrence Skiff, which seemed to fit the story told to DA. So, this completed the jigsaw puzzle of Pops early years here.

I suspect Pops attended Cornell due to Edward Rider's encouragement (and financial help) , studied agriculture, dairy related, for a year or so. (probably late 1905-1906 or possibly ‘07)
In short, here is the rest of the story, if which I am writing a long version, which I will glady share with you if you leave a comment asking:

On a bicycle tour or the southern US with friends or classmates in 1907, passing through Baton Rouge, Louisiana he met Sophie Delhomme (my Grandmother) at a Methodist Youth function, fell in love and married her. His first job in Louisiana was at the Cloverland Dairy in New Orleans. They lived on Magazine St. in early ‘08 but Sophie was anxious to get back to the Baton Rouge area. So, later that year they moved back and Pops went to work for the Louisiana State University Diary Division in Baton Rouge. He loved sports and was the “manager” for the National Champion 1908 LSU football team!

He resigned from the LSU job (probably in 1910 or so) to take a job with the new Baton Rouge Standard Refinery (today ExxonMobil).

I do remember my Dad (Sam Fry, Jr.) talking about how much Pops loved the outdoors, especially swimming. I have always had that passion for being on or in the water. This included paddling, which Kim & I do & enjoy often. Ironically, through this research, I learned about the bicycle tour from my cousin, another hobby that I pursue and love. So, I guess the old stories about where we get our interests from are true! The completion of this story will be when I hear back from the only living "Shipman" descendant, who owns a small boat marina near Thousand Islands. I'm hoping to find out more about the Glen House history, and perhaps find an old photo or job record that would document that Pops was there. I definitely want to visit Glen House, and paddle those same Thousand Island waters that Pops did, but that will be another story.

August 23, 2007

Canada - Niagara Falls

No trip through this part of Canada would be complete without seeing the Falls from the Canadian side, and a fitting way to end the month's stay on the north side of the border. And guess what, all those stories you've heard about "the only side to see Niagara Falls from is the Canadian side", are absolutely you'll see below!

Our stay in this region was at a small campground in the middle of orchards. Yes, it turns out that this part of Canada is ideal for growing apples, peaches and grapes - especially wine grapes.

The beautiful countryside coupled with the free tastings all along the "Trail" made the stay a bit more enjoyable. So, we explored the area for a couple of days, and saved the Falls for last. As it turns out, our favorite Canadian wine was actualy from another area, Pelee Island, which was a bit too far off our rote to visit.

We approached the Falls from upriver, and walking by I remember thinking what a neat whitewater run this would make! Within a few hundred yards, it became clear why none dare run this stretch, the consequences of failure to pull out would be pretty dramatic!
Walking a little further brought a view of the spectacular ride one would have in their canoe down to the bottom. I guess the consolation would be that the "Maiden of the Mist" would be waiting down there to recover one's remains!

It was a dreary, rainy day, but still allowed us to see the "American side", and I must say this is definitely the place to be for the most spectacular views. I guess the sun bursting through to give us a colorful rainbow over the US falls made up for it.

As we headed back to the parking lot, I decided to climb above the crowded walkway and was rewarded by this breathtaking panorama of the entire Falls, with the rainbow hovering below "our side"!

August 18, 2007

Au Sable & Manistee Rivers

The Au Sable River in central Michigan’s Lower Penninsula is a long-time favorite of both paddlers and fisherman since the turn of the century. The River is noted for it’s trout population, and a 22 mile stretch dedicated to ideal habitat for “catch & release only” fly fishing.

Our journey started in Grayling at Penrod Outfitters carefully designed campground and launch site, and continued through the lower 18 miles of this habitat. Penrod shuttled our truck down to the takeout for a modest fee, so we definitely recommend these folks!

Compared to most rivers we had been on that did not contain rapids, the Au Sable is very fast. We completed the paddle in about 5 hours, including a lunch stop and several short ones to stretch our legs.

Crystal clear water, punctuated by stretches of emerald green grass, waving like a hula skirt in the fast current were interrupted only by the numerous man-made cribs, log jams and bankside lay-downs providing ideal trout habitat.

The day would have been perfect were it not for the cool temps accompanied by annoying 20-25 knot winds. As you can see, Kim found a fleece very comfortable at midday in the bright sunlight (yeh, I know about Louisiana, sorry!).

The “Au Sable River Boat” caught my attention, a cross between the Ojibway canoe and a Cajun pirogue, they glide effortlessly along with the current while providing a rock stable platform for the fisherman. And the fisherman were all from the “GoreTex Club”, wearing only the finest of clothes & paraphernalia.

By 3:30 after the eighteen miles in the windy conditions, returning to the trailer and a bowl of piping hot chili was as much of a treat as floating the River.

The morning of the 18th brought another paddle in the Grayling area, another river, but a much different story. From the put-in the the take-out, I really enjoyed the tranquil, remoteness of the Manistee

The River is also a “trout river”, it is not as popular or “maintained” as others, and also does not have the high level of paddle traffic. From beginning to end, brought a slower flow, and a narrower stream, with far fewer homes and camps…what a treat. Many birds graced the banks, including several Great Blue Herons, numerous ducks (mostly teal) and even a few shorebirds.

We enjoyed this paddle so much, we didn't take many pictures, just relaxed & went with the flow of the River!

The return to Goose Creek Campground was just in time for lunch. The Campground is also a favorite of trail riders (horses). We witnessed that some horses and canoes don’t get along, when a cowboy was thrown and almost trampled by his horse while trying to cross the River right in front of an oncoming canoe. I guess it was supposed to be macho, but looked pretty stupid to me!
We broke camp early today and headed for Flint, for a few days near good internet & cell connections.