Memories of Stottville: dogs, donkeys, ducks & other critters

These are all stories that we might have heard growing up if our grandmother had been born just ten years earlier. Her older sisters Kate and Jessie joined in some of these memories. But by 1900, when Dorothy was old enough to play with her cousins, Stottville’s heydey was mostly over. -KPJ

 

“Your mother will remember Schuyler, a little mongrel pup, which your Uncle Will picked up somewhere. Schuyler became a great pet and learned tricks easily. His best one was to sing. Whenever anyone played the piano Schuyler would sit underneath and sing as long as the playing continued.”

John M. Pearson, addressing the children
of Emma Wells Stott Williams in 1939

 

“The most appreciated gift from Tom [Williams, to Emma, his fiancée] was a nasty, hateful, vicious Italian greyhound – which spent all his time on the foot of her bed. If anyone stepped inside her room those awful teeth showed up. I honestly think she liked that dog named Vita better than her beautiful engagement ring. She had a queer side to her – always wanted Pets, but never any petting.

“I remember her first pet, a baby lamb, which ba-baed every minute except when she sat on the lawn with it in her lap, feeding it the bottle. Everyone hated Daisy, finally Daisy disappeared and it was given out she had run away, but was never found alive, and soon roast lamb was served for dinner and one by one left the table. Not one of the ten hungry children could absorb Daisy.

“Emma was wonderful in taming horses and her riding habit with long train was never equaled then or since, and consequently it was impossible for the ugly little horse mink to run away with this heavy burden.”

Jessie Douglas Stott Parsons
1865-1948

 

“Stottville was always a lovely home with a great family that laughed with its mother and played games every minute. There were oodles of children, young and older and many birthdays. When Willy [William Horatio Stott], one of the older brothers had his twenty first birthday, there was a great party and because he was fond of animals and especially fond of cats, the country was scoured for kittens till 21 were found, black, white, tortoise-shell, maltese, young and not so young, all put in a covered basket and when Willy had cut his cake and received many gifts, some one said, ‘sit down Willy we have one more gift for you’ and brought in the basket and dumped the 21 kittens in his lap; he was a bit surprised at all the meowing but delighted and gathered together as many as he could manage and said ‘get some milk somebody, they are hungry.’ I often wondered what became of those kittens, maybe “Vita” Emma’s greyhound settled some of them.”

Clara Oakley Meyerkort
1861-?

 

“Do you […] remember the Sunday the Donkey went with the cows over to the pasture back of the Church, and how hot it was and every window was open, even the Chancel ones. Suddenly as Mr. Rainey read the words from the first lesson of Numbers, 22 chap. ‘and the ass opened her mouth,’ the donkey opened her mouth and let off her song right under the window. Some rushed right out, and we could hear them laughing, while one by one those inside joined them. When they could not hold in any longer, Mr. Rainey said ‘Sing,’ but no one could, so Mary played till I put up the Hymnal, opened at ‘The Church’s One Foundation.’ Soon we all got into it, but the donk never went over to the pasture with the cows again.”

Grace Helene Stott Franchot
1867-1939

 

“In the afternoons Grandmother would sit in the parlor or on the north porch overlooking the big oval bed of red geraniums, with lemon verbena and heliotrope in the corner beds. A little way down the lawn was the big maple we all liked to climb. Towards evening the ducks would come waddling up across the lawn, the morning doves would call and as the sunset faded the frogs would begin their croaking and fire-flys appear. Such a peaceful place and one of such happy memories. Ones we shall never forget.”

Jessie Douglas Pearson Peck
1883-1983

 

“Those of us who struggled many hot summer hours with the ‘Donkey,’ coaxing and beating him to make him just walk one trip to the ‘store’ for ‘Jackson balls’ and jelly beans and return before dinner at 12:30 noon – will never forget how he would only go on one side of the bridge, the side away from the dam. This of course, caused great traffic confusion, and if the White Prairie Schooner top was up, many a horse shied and ran with farmers yelling quite unfriendly words at us. The most eventful trip the Donkey ever made, was to Hudson and return in a day, driven by Helen and Bill Whitney and one St. Bernard dog (that Helen was afraid of too), but they will tell a full story of that. Another daily sight before the noon-day dinner, was Uncle Fred, always asleep on the leather sofa in the sitting room, and after dinner, everyone back to the porch to finish the game of ‘desperation’ that had been going for hours. Later in the afternoon I remember Grandma sitting in the parlor beside the window, looking towards the garden; the ‘ducks’ returning from the creek was a signal for us to clean up for supper. It was such a pretty sight to see so many white ducks together quacking and waddling over the green lawn, and great fun when Uncle Frank would put the young ones in the water for the first time; and lots of trouble trying to find them at dusk by rowing around the creek.

“[…] For me there was only one thing wrong with ‘Stottville’ and that was the ‘dogs.’ They haunted me all day, but I was quite safe indoors, except on Sundays when Uncle Frank would open the window and call the dogs in for ice cream and cake. They would leap through the window. I used to squeeze my chair in tight to get protection from the ‘beasts.'”

Leila Whitney Hartshorne
1887-1976

 

St. Bernard, from “The Illustrated Book of the Dog,” by Vero Shaw, 1881

“My second impression of Stottville was of another hot summer day, when a crowd of six or seven of us children were continuously being driven away from the front of the big white house and being told to ‘Shush! Shush! Your Grandfather is very sick and he is now sleeping.’ ‘Go away, don’t play here or you will wake him up.’ But towards the latter part of each afternoon, we would be herded around to see Grandpa, as he was being pushed up the path in a wheel chair from the green well-house, which was covered with crimson ramblers, and about half way down the path leading to the front gate, by ‘number one’ mill. The crowd of nine or ten St. Bernards following the wheel chair stood almost as high as we children. Dogs, with long slobbering tongues, drooling all over us, kept pushing in among us children as the entire entourage made its way slowly to the side steps, where another man was needed to help work the wheel chair up onto the porch.

“The big white house, with the drive in front stood back quite a bit from the winding, muddy creek, which never seemed to flow at all, but which was always a fascination, on account of the many insects on or near its surface, and the swift flying birds swooping down near the water. The space between the steep muddy bank and the road in front of the house was planted to a lovely green lawn, with large trees scattered here and there. About halfway to the creek was a rose covered summer house. From this summer house one had a very excellent view of the flock of ducks, numbering well over a hundred, which would waddle down each morning, shortly after breakfast time, from the duck yard near the barn. As they reached the small embankment on the upper side of the road, ducks would sometimes crowd each other and fall down and roll to the sidewalk, especially if some other young cousin had been able to sick one or more of the great big St. Bernards after the flock of ducks. So the summer house was a great point of vantage, as well as a safe retreat from the flock of geese, which always followed the ducks. These geese, especially when they had very young goslings with them, could be angered by a child hissing at them. When angered, the geese, sometimes the entire flock of ten to twenty, would lower their heads, open their beaks, hiss, flap their wings and charge the one who had hissed at them. But if a child were in the summer house, there was feeling of security, because the geese never seemed to want to be cornered in the house and always stopped at the open doorway. And of course, if they even did come in, one might climb up the gingerbread curlicue decorations and get out of their reach.

“[…] This donkey Jack, was quite a curiosity. He had a very flat back, upon which a person could stand very easily. He also had a very muscular neck, with great bulges on both sides. He was always turned out in the lot with the cows each night, and while trudging up the back lane, he would lower his head, blow the dust and lay down to roll three times, no more and no less. In the morning he would not come to the gate with the cows but would hide way up in the woods, where we would have to surround him and put a halter on him. If turned loose in the barnyard, with some daring village boy or an uninitiated relative standing on his back, where there were almost stirrups in his carcass, Jack would canter sedately around, making three complete circles, when his head would go down and his heels up and his rider would make a perfect arc to the ground, while Jack stood still to look at him with his lips curled up and his ears back. Uncle Frank had purchased him from a circus. He fitted our family because he was used to clowns.

“Jack had other peculiarities; when finally hitched to his cart he would walk sedately up the road to Uncle Will’s house, follow the road around that house and then return to his barn. It took three or four children, pulling all together on one line to double his head right back against his neck, in order to keep him from turning into the road to the barn. The same process was necessary at the front gate to keep him from turning down the Columbia Springs road and thence up the lane to the back entrance to his barn.

“The bridge over Claverack creek had the roadway divided by a timber. Traffic kept to the right, but Jack didn’t like the dam and its noise on the upstream side, so he could not be persuaded, mauled or driven over this bridge on any but the downstream side, regardless of direction in which he walked. This often necessitated someone running ahead to wave their arms and stop traffic until the donkey had walked slowly all the way across the bridge on the wrong side.

“…I had lived out in Colorado, where prairie schooners were a common sight, and my Uncle in Albany had one made for me which I drove with a pair of goats. Later, I had a pair of shaves made for it and sent the schooner to Stottville, where I hitched the donkey to it. Helen Stott became fascinated by this wagon from the west, and we planned a trip to Hudson in it together. We started early one morning, about eight o’clock, with food enough for a week and water pails, small stove, pans, kettles, etc., hanging all over the rig, just like the real thing. One of the big St. Bernards insisted on following us all the way. We stopped for our picnic lunch at the farm on the upper road and arrived at Aunt Kate’s house about three that afternoon – seven hours to go four and one half miles. About 200 people followed us thru Hudson’s streets. The family sent in for Helen and me and we left the donkey in Aunt Kate’s barn that night and one of the coachmen had to go in next day and drive him home.”

William Minot Whitney III
1888-1983

 

“I think my earliest recollections were of playing hide and go seek one rainy Sunday afternoon, with all the grown-ups playing with us, and Uncle Frank hiding me on a closet shelf from which I could not get down! And again, how we all went to church Sunday, just for the fun of driving over the creek with Grandma in that old phaeton with her brown horse, Mary Jane, driven by old William Scott. Do you remember him, with his funny little whiskers? And of Bill Hill taking a lot of us children up that huge (!) hill, to the chicken coop, to see him chop heads off our Sunday dinner. And Aunt Adele, running out to stop a fight over who should drive the donkey, when Bill and Charley Dean were at it tooth and nail. Do you remember the big St. Bernard dogs jumping in the dining room windows to get ice cream on Sunday? And all the quarts of peas we shelled on the front piazza, and Grandma always had such delicious cough drops in her pocket. Grandma died when I was about nine and nearly forty years makes the memories pretty hazy. Bill and Helen Stott once drove the donkey and the prairie schooner to Hudson. As I remember, they told no one their intention, but just started out, and all Stottville was searching for them at lunch time. I think it took them most of the day to get there; and what funny sight they must have been, Bill and long-legged Helen, curled up in that little wagon with Bemmy running alongside. I think they spent the night with Aunt Kate and came home next day.”

Prudence Whitney Harber
1890-1993

 

“One day stands out in my memory of Stottville, when I was about six years old. Harry and I were crazy to have a little lamb. Grandfather Stott heard of our ambition and ordered Grosvenor, the coachman, to bring up the victoria. The carriage was filled with children and we started off back in the country toward Claverack. Finally, we came to a farm where there were sheep, and Grandfather ordered the coachman to drive into the barnyard where the farmer was working. Soon a little baby lamb was purchased, stowed right in the carriage and we drove home in triumph.

“We named the lamb Daisy, and kept her out on the lawn between our cottage and the ‘big house.’ As Daisy grew up, she used to follow us right upstairs in the cottage and finally got so strong, she would charge us, butting and knock us over. That Fall, Daisy disappeared and whenever lamb was served, Harry and I were suspicious that Daisy had been sacrificed. As we were never sure, and had good appetites, I guess we ate Daisy. We used to play with Daisy in the evening and Uncle Fred would throw cigarette cards out of his window. By Fall we had a great collection of cigarette cards.

Vintage cigarette cards, ca. 1900

“[…] The Stott uncles and cousins were numerous enough to have a baseball nine which played against the village boys on Saturday afternoons. It was the excitement of the week. Fishing in the creek under the willows, by the front gate, was another sport we children always enjoyed, supervised by Aunt Jule. She was a great sport. When I was about seventeen years old, Aunt Jule took me, Harry and Prescott Oakes on a shooting trip to Maine. We had a grand time and each one shot a deer. We shot partridge, caught trout and lived on them and venison for a very pleasant two weeks.”

Thomas Resolved “Rez” Williams
1881-1982

 

“We must have been quite little when we were content to play on the lawn with Queenie and Bemmy, and make pretend soapsuds on their white necks. The donkey trips around the ‘block’ were unending journeys. The only time he ever went faster than a walk was coming down the hill from Aunt Leila’s – except a shameful rumor was only whispered – when Lawrence Durant stuck pins in him and the donkey would suddenly go into high gear. I remember now, our feeling of shocked horror at such evil doings!”

Dorcas Oakley Williams Ferris
1886-1971

These quotes are taken from 17 letters written 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.

If you want help figuring out all the cousins and such, there’s a helpful table here.

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