Weekly Scribe: Ira Sayles to Edwin B Hall, 1884

Today I transcribed this letter posted from my 2x great-grandfather, Ira Sayles, to his long time friend, Edwin B. Hall, at the end of June, 1884. I suspect that the friends first met in the 1860s after Ira’s sister, Rhobe Sayles Crandall, moved with their elderly parents to Wellsville (Allegany County, New York) where Hall ran a drugstore. Ira’s visits to check in on sister and parents would have provided opportunity for the two men to meet, and share their enthusiasm over all things geological. Both men collected rock and fossil specimens as citizen scientists; and Ira parlayed that hobby into a job with the newly developed United States Geological Survey in 1883. The Hall-Sayles friendship continued throughout Ira’s tenure. I am grateful to Jay Woelfle for sharing his 2x great-grandfather’s keepsakes with me.

A few days ago, the Mail Carrier laid on my table a package. On opening it, I might have imagined, but didn’t, that all the Wellsville typeclingers had suddenly fallen in love with me.  Some articles had pencil marks around them. The one from Mr. Rude reveals some curiosities relative to Prof. [J.L.] Burritt, and his management of the Academic Department of Wellsville Graded School. I have known some men similar to the one hinted at by Mr. Rude. Still I have seen the public run gaping after these very men. The truth is, that the general public is utterly unqualified to sit in judgement on really well educated intellect. A man with brass and endless variety of sweetened palaver can talk popular approval of any folly his fancy may choose, into the popular head. In educational matters, as in Religion and Politics, the blind lead the blind, unquestioned, and, even if questioned, the popular shield sufficiently protects the arraigned idol.

I know absolutely nothing of Prof. Burritt; but I suspect that Rude knows his man.

I discover that Wellsville rejoices in a New Light—The Free Press!  Does A.N.C.1 shine through its columns? If it lack his vast illuminating powers, ‘twill, possibly, prove an Ignis Fatuus3. A.N.C. and the great E. B.2 have shed such floods of thin light in Alleghany County that the people ought to erect a rival Washington’s Monument on their highest hill, to commemorate their appreciation of such wondrous services.

By the way and apropos, Washington’s Monument is becoming quite a respectable pillar. It has already attained the height of 470 feet above the foundation. In two months more, it is expected to reach 500 feet, from which point a new slope will bring it to a terminus, at the height of 555feet—the highest work ever erected by man: still how insignificantly small, compared with the huge pyramids of Egypt! The base of this monument is 55 feet: its walls, at the base, are fifteen feet thick, leaving, thus, twenty five feet of open space inside the walls.

In my judgement, its site is most unfortunate. Why it was placed down on that low ground, I can not imagine, nor have I yet found the man wise enough to give me any light on that point. It is there, but why there, nobody seems to know. All admit the blunder, if one can call such the case a blunder. It must have been chosen for some fancied advantage; but what? That’s the question. As an American Citizen, I am ashamed of the location. I don’t suppose my protest will avail anything; but I protest, “all the same!”


1 A.N. Cole, editor locally known as the “Father” of the area’s Republican Party.

2 Perhaps a reference to E B Hall.

3 Noun: 1: a light that sometimes appears in the night over marshy ground and is often attributable to the combustion of gas from decomposed organic matter. 2 : a deceptive goal or hope.

Amanuensis: A Letter from Ira Sayles to brother James K. Sayles, 1869

Rushford, Allg. Co., N.Y., Saturday, July 24, 1869

My Dear Brother, James,

Yours of the 18 inst[ant] came to hand, last evening. I need not say I was somewhat surprised: for I had lost all trace of you. My last to you was directed to La Porte, and was never answered. I received a paper published at Austin, Minn., sometime last summer, a year ago. Your name was on it, and I supposed you sent it. This was all the clue I had to your whereabouts. I could not discover where that was mailed. So I supposed you would rather I should not know. Of course I was quiet. I am glad to receive a line now.

Since I wrote to you, my matters have run along in the usual track. My year’s expenses devoured my year’s salary, and left me as poor, today, as one year ago today.

Serena does not dispose of much of her landed property, though of some. She is moving to sell her Alfred property, house and all, for six thousand. It ought to bring ten thousand. She wanted me to invest her means in Virginia lands. Then she though she didn’t dare trust me alone, so she went with me. It was exceedingly warm; and I suspect she will not go again very soon.

I could get and make a splendid home there, at a very low price. But it is all of no use. The means of making such a home are hers. Where she says invest, there investment will be made, or nowhere.

Loren is in East Boston, I suppose. He has twice inquired of me for you. I could not tell. The matter has rested.

I am again engaged in this school, for another year. So you will know where I may be found.

This season has been a very unfavorable one for corn with us; but wheat has done well. Grass has a heavy growth, but the weather for haymaking is tremendous. No one can guess what hour may rain like Noah’s flood. These rains are frequently cold as April rains.

We are all very well. I have not recently heard from any of our brothers and sisters.

My respects to Lucinda and Anna.

Very truly
Your Brother
Ira

Source:

Letter from Ira Sayles to James K. Sayles, 1869, from the Sayles Family Collection, privately held by Sharon Babcock (address for private use); transcribed by Kay Strickland 25 February 2019.

Ira Sayles (1817-1894) was the author's great-great-grandfather.

Sometimes You Can Go Home

The Descendants
I stood tall beside two other descendants of Samuel S. White, Doris Coleman Montgomery and Dale Coleman.

On May 28, 2016 I drove through the rolling landscape of north central Pennsylvania to the New York border.  I drifted west over winding backroads until I hit the outskirts of an ancestral home.  Along the banks of Cryder Creek, Whitesville contains the memories of pioneering people, including the White and Teater families, from which I am descended.

In the late 1810s, Samuel followed his father-in-law, John Teater, to the farmland that became Independence Township, Allegany County.  His wife, Nancy, was a teacher and helpmate to every endeavor that Samuel undertook, which included the raising of seven children and the building of a hamlet’s first hotel in 1827.  Samuel was a farmer, cattle dealer, a shop keeper, an innkeeper; he served his community as town clerk, postmaster, and town supervisor. With time the hamlet took on the name Whitesville.

Folks of Independence Township had long believed the oral tradition of how their town got its name.  Roger Easton, Independence historian, led the effort to formally attribute the village’s name to Samuel White’s life and legacy.  That last Saturday in May several descendants gathered at Lot 50, site of the White Hotel, and unveiled the Legends and Lore highway marker.

Thank you so much, Roger and all the supporters of the Independence Historical Society for your dedicated efforts (and for lunch)!!

The folks who helped make this happen
So grateful to all of these residents of Independence Township, particularly Independence Historian, Roger Easton (far left), who led the effort to commemorate Samuel S. White’s contribution.

 

The Passing of Sarah Sayles: Sunday’s Obituary

I want to thank Nick at the  Seventh Day Baptist Historical Society in Janesville, Wisconsin, for his help in retrieving the following obituary in the Sabbath Recorder, volume 22: issue 18, p. 71.

DIED

In Wellsville, N.Y.; February 24th, 1866, Mrs. SARAH SAYLES, wife of Christopher Sayles, in the 72nd year of her age.   She was a member of the Protestant Methodist Church, and adorned her profession by a godly life.  Her end was one of triumph over the terrors of death and the grave.  She leaves eight children, and twelve brothers and sisters, being the first to die out of her father’s family of children, the youngest of whom is fifty-three.

A quick read of this paragraph reveals my great-great-great-grandmother Sayles to have been a  godly woman; a wife, a mother and sister.  The second read through tickles my curiosity. With its choice of the word “wife”, the author communicates that Sarah was survived by her husband Christopher Sayles, with whom she had had eight children. The author also states that Sarah died in Wellsville.  I know from other family records that the couple had lived much of their adult lives in Tioga County, Pennsylvania.  What, then, was Sarah doing living across the New York state border, in Allegany County?

START WITH THE FACTS AND CHASE THE TALE

1865 New York State Census - Wellsville, Allegany County
1865 New York State Census – Wellsville, Allegany County

The 1865 New York State census marked the trail head to this mystery path:  Sarah and Christopher were sharing a home with their daughter, Rhobe Sayles Crandall.

This discovery pushed me to flush out Sarah’s other seven children and her twelve brothers and sisters. Family historian and cousin, Sharon B,  fed me data crumbs which aided my search, and I reread a transcribed The History of Tioga County (Pennsylvania) on Joyce Tice’s site, Tri-Counties Genealogy and History.  Now my trail was well blazed.

THE FAMILY TREE OF SARAH KING SAYLES

Sarah and Christopher were born and  married in Burrillville, Rhode Island, and they moved to Tioga County, Pennsylvania in 1825. Here they raised eight children to adulthood: Ira (my great-great-grandfather), Rhobe (Crandall), Priscilla (died at age 2), James King, Christopher Loren, Martha (Pickett), Philander, Keziah King (Batcheller), and Adriel King. 

Many of Sarah’s siblings were among the residents of Tioga County, as her parents had also migrated from Rhode Island to Tioga County in 1825.  James and Merrobe (Roby) Howland King had thirteen children: Prince, Allen, Eddy, Ozial, Sarah (Sayles), John, James, Keziah (Crandall), William H, Hannah, Roby, Adriel, and Almon, who being the youngest, was just 53 at Sarah’s death.

Newspaper notices capture the facts of a life.

Sarah King Sayles passed from this earth on a Saturday, the 24th of February 1866.  That fact, and the reference to all those who shed tears upon learning the news, is easily transmitted in newsprint.

But who was Sarah, really?  I am left with as many questions as Sarah had siblings.   How did Christopher and Sarah contribute to their children’s household?  Where did her siblings reside?  How much time passed before they knew of her death?  Her obituary states that she adorned her profession with a godly life.  How did Sarah practice her faith?  Did any of her children serve in the Civil War? How did that affect her?  As she triumphed over the terrors of death, did she suffer a lingering illness?

Just who was Sarah King Sayles?

Sunday’s Obituary: Nancy Teater White

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Nancy Teater White survived her husband, Samuel S. White, by two and a half years.  This generous soul could well have spent her widow years with the sons who lived in Independence and neighboring Whitesville.  But she died in Alfred, a nearby town and home to Alfred University.

Her daughter, Serena White Sayles, lived on the campus of that college in the Gothic, a home built by Samuel in the early 1850s.  At the time of Nancy’s death, Serena was home alone with nine month old baby Christopher, five year old Merlin, and eleven year old Clifton; and she may well have been on faculty of that college teaching French as she had periodically since 1848.  Professor-now-Captain Ira Sayles was actually in a hospital tent outside Camp Suffolk, Virginia, suffering the effects of leading Company H, 130th Regiment of the New York State Volunteers in camp drills and exhausting training marches in the Black River area.

Grandma White ended her life in Alfred at her daughter’s home, where she no doubt had helped Serena juggle the demands of young children, a baby and a community while her son-in-law served his country far from home. Or at least tried to help before becoming another dependent in the Gothic household.  I like to think that Serena clung to a community of strong women that January, as her mother passed on.  I am certain that she missed the genial spirit of Nancy Teater White, as the next month’s uncertainties unfolded.