Memories of Stottville – Kitty Jenks


Kate Oakley Pearson Jenks (1878- ?)

I can shut my eyes now and hear the mill bell ringing before daylight. Bill Hill pumping the well water, the hum of the mill machinery, the horses coming down the hill from the church and over the bridge, and the creek rushing over the dam.

I can smell the wool and grease in the mills, the sulphur water I went with Bill Hill to draw at the springs, the lilac by the north parlor window, the yellow rose bush.

Grandma’s beds of heliotrope and verbena, the buffalo robes in the big sleigh and the ole-kuchen baking in Auntie’s basement kitchen.

In Auntie’s house [that would be Aunt Jane ] only a few things stand out, though every Sunday afternoon I went with Aunt Jule to “call on Auntie.” There were the wax flowers, the gray mantel vases, the short large sofa in Auntie’s bed room, homemade I think, for great grandfather Stott, the Empire sofa in the dark back parlor through which Auntie took us to the garden. She wore a sun bonnet as we went back and forth on the paths between the fountain and the summer house looking at the plants.

“Brightside,” Home of Commodore Francis Horatio (“Big Uncle Frank”) Stott

In Big Uncle Frank’s there is a memory of Aunt Lizzie showing me the portraits of the children she lost – of Flora McDonald playing in the Library – of Big Uncle Frank, Cousin Jen, Tim and Charlie Van R. on the porch.

In the office grandfather, father and the Uncles worked in the back room. Big Uncle Frank, Cousin Arthur & Tim in the front room – and where I remember watching with Grandfather, through the open back door, the creek roaring over the dam in a spring flood.

The people of the older generation, Aunt Liz Oakley, Aunt Jane, Cousin Mary Meyer, Big Uncle Frank, Aunt Lizzie, Miss Lathrop, Mr. Fisher, Aunt Adele and Uncle Bill Oakley and Aunt Fanny Roome – I loved them all – all but Aunt Fanny and I wonder if she wasn’t a disagreeable old lady.

The servants in the house, Mary Gill with red hair – Eliza Jordan the cook – someone will surely tell you how when Grandma had occasion to scold her she said “Eliza, you and I will have to part” and Eliza answered “where are you going Mrs. Stott?” – Bill Hill, beloved of the the children your “Booey,” – Maggie Bateman – William the coachman.

I’ll never forget one day when there was a parade going down Allen St. and we all sat on the front porch. Grandma and Grandpa came through the opposite yard. Driving down the alley to avoid the parade, the victoria had parted in the middle – leaving them stranded while William drove on.

View from The Mountain House (1836), by William Henry Bartlett

The drives were a source of joy and to go as far as Chatham and home through Kinderhook an adventure. Often we bought shad on the river road. Once or twice a year there was an all day picnic to Copake Lake – so Aunt Jule could fish. In the summer there was often a real journey by boat to Catskill and a drive up to Mountain House. There was always a fall picnic for chestnuts when we drove by the Brick Tavern and the little red school house where Grandfather went to school. One drive I remember making in haste with Uncle Charlie – out from Hudson – when we arrived spattered with mud and a snow storm coming on – next day – March 11 – in the midst of the big blizzard of 1888 Jack [Jonathan Pearson II] was born. That time I had a real visit for the roads were blocked. The mills were closed and the men put to work shoveling the Upper Road.

When I was very small there were only Charlie, Fred, Helene, and Jule at home – and Uncle Frank week-ends – Charlie had the big south bedroom – Helene the north room – Fred the room over the Kitchen and Jule the room over the laundry. Grandma’s room was in the center front and opening off a small hall bedroom where I slept. There was an open radiator in the floor – a perfect God-send to me for I could both see and hear what went on downstairs and was never lonesome. Sometimes, when Grace was in school in New York, or away visiting, I slept in her room – Bill Hill came in early in the morning to make the fire and in her corner desk were crackers and cheese. The middle room was for guests and Aunt Liz had the little room at the head of the stairs. What a sad life she had had and how gay she was. Uncle Frank’s room was on the third floor. How I envied him the candle shields he used to reading in bed. Aunt Jul’s room was the most attractive to me. There were five windows so one could see what went on in the garden, at the barn, or at your cottage. There was a couch in front of the fire and a book case filled with German novels and a set of George Eliot I always wanted. There were just as interesting book-cases downstairs in both sitting rooms.

The front and back parlors I only remember being used on Christmas – for weddings and funerals and on Sundays and hot summer afternoons when a breeze came in from the north porch. How many people today would give anything for those furnishings in the craze for the Victorian – the mirrors, window benches, alabaster vases, Rosewood furniture, pineapple table, the pictures of Mary Elizabeth over the mantel and “Aurora” over the horse-hair sofa. The hall was filled with wraps – the “Leuters families” on the wall – the sitting rooms with Grandma and Aunt Liz industriously sewing by the front windows – and both Uncles taking pre-luncheon naps. I’ll never forget being made to sit on Grandma’s foot stool all one afternoon till I learned “what desireth thou in prayer?” There was a bedroom off the sitting room and some sort of porch or entry – later turned into the dining-room. I can see Grandpa now at the table but all I ever remember his saying to me was Hi Hi! One time when I hadn’t seen Aunt Adele and Uncle Bill Oakley in a long while, I remember asking at the dining-room table “where is Uncle Bill anyway?” and Grandma explaining to me, amidst roars of laughter, that she hoped Uncle Bill was in heaven.

Is it any wonder so many of us are fat when you consider how we ate for pleasure – and what good things there were on that dining-room table? And no wonder we all love the country and our flower gardens. I can’t be too thankful for early Stottville days which made it possible.

                                                                                                Kitty P. Jenks

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This is one of 17 vignettes compiled in 1939 for the 80th birthday of Emma Wells Stott Williams, one of Grandma’s many aunts. Emma’s siblings, children, cousins, nieces, and nephews all wrote up their memories and someone compiled them into a pamphlet. You can read the whole thing here. Meanwhile, I’ll be posting the highlights in digestible segments.

“Kitty Jenks” is Grandma’s oldest sister: Kate Oakley Pearson, also sometimes referred to as “Kop” Pearson, who married Arthur Jenks. For the record, Grandma was born in 1893. If you want help figuring out all the cousins and such, there’s a helpful table here.

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