Having passed the allotted three score and ten and being into the four score, and recalling some of the various events that occurred during my very interesting and contented life, I thought that a recording of some of these might be of interest to some of the family, and for the benefit of the younger generation, I am going to record the family descendants.
James (1) Latta, born, lived and died in Ireland, place and dates unknown; three or more of his sons came to America about the time of the Revolution. Whether they all came at the same time or not is uncertain.
James (2) came at least as early as 1772. We have no record of their history prior to their arrival, but tradition among the descendants of James (2) says that he owned a line of sailing vessels trading between Liverpool and New York before he settled at Walkill, N.Y. They know nothing about the name of their Irish ancestors more than the two brothers James and Samuel; the descendants of Samuel (2) say there were four or five brothers, and that two or more of them were the owners with their father James of a flouring mill in Ireland before they came to America. The descendants of Moses (2) only know that he came from the north of Ireland with two brothers, James and Samuel. As Moses died when his children were young, they know but little about him.
The descendants of James and Samuel have always known each other but those now living had no knowledge of Moses or any other brother. In tracing the descendants of James (2), the writer recently found some of the descendants of Moses (2) and thus verified the tradition as to one of the lost brothers. It will be noticed that all three of the brothers named their children after their relatives and it is hoped that this tendency to repeat the names James, Samuel, Moses and William may lead to the discovery of the missing branch or branches.
Samuel (2) Latta (James 1) born in Ireland in 1756 married Elizabeth Schultz of Newburg, N.Y., May 19, 1786, born Oct. 10, 1768 in New Windsor, N.Y. soon removed to Geneva, N.Y. where he had bought 1000 acres of wild land; he was in Geneva with his wife prior to Dec. 1793. He probably followed his brother Moses to that place, and was followed by his brother James with his family in Sept. 1789. That James and Samuel lost track of the family of Moses is not strange when we consider the route then traveled to go from New Windsor to Geneva via from New Windsor to Albany by schooner, to Schenectady by wagon, up the Mohawk river to Fort Stanwix (now Rome) in canoes portage over to Wood Creek and down that to Oneida Lake, cross the lake to Fort Brewster, then down Oneida river to Three River Point, then up Seneca River and Lake to Geneva. With good luck the trip could be made in two weeks, but oftener required three weeks.
Samuel made one of the best farms in the state out of his wild land near Geneva, and lived on it until his death Aug. 19, 1820.
Isaac Schultz (3) Latta (son of Samuel and Elizabeth Schultz) born in Geneva, N.Y. (Mount Pleasant) May 10, 1796, married Polly Reed Ford at Geneva Nov. 7, 1821. First settled in Geneva, N.Y. but Feb. 13, 1833 removed to Friendship, N.Y. He was a veteran of the war of 1812. Lumberman and farmer. He died Dec. 16, 1862.
Samuel Elisha Latta, born in Geneva, N.Y. Aug. 11, 1822, came to Friendship, N.Y. with his parents Feb. 13, 1833. On Sept. 18, 1844 married Orpha Elizabeth Gorton of Friendship, N.Y. one of the five daughters of Joseph Gorton. Died Jan. 12, 1911. In early life he was a farmer, later was for many years in the Implement and Carriage trade. Father had one sister and one brother Josiah Reed Latta, who had one daughter and one son, Judson Coburn Latta, who died without issue. My generation follows. Siblings
Emmit Girdell (May 28, 1849 - April 10, 1925. Three sons Jefferson Brown who had no children. Frank Raymond who had three daughters and no sons. Hubert Isaac who had 2 daughters and no sons. Adrian Clarence (Dec. 5, 1851 - Aug. 26, 1926) had one daughter and one son, Jo Ghandi who had no children.
Samuel S. (Aug. 28, 1854 - 1915) had one daughter and one son, Clyde Smalley, who had son Clyde Jr., who perished while Purser on the steamship “Morro Castle” that burned at sea.
Fanny Lillie (Mr. F. Hinman), sister born June 30, 1856, died May 2, 1932.
Frank Fremont (Oct. 29, 1860 - Nov. 23, 1933) no children
George Clinton (Nov. 18, 1862 - May 18, 1904) no children
Sheridan Gorton (June 19, 1867) one daughter Romayne (now Mrs. T. E. Palmer has one son Theron Lee and one daughter Sharon) and one son Sheridan Graham with no children.
By checking this family tree, it looks very much as if this branch of Lattas will fade out of the picture forever.
Samuel Gorton, the first known generation, was born in Manchester England in 1592. He married Mary Maplet and had 9 children. Samuel (1) Gorton landed in Boston in March 1636 with his wife and son Samuel and one or two other children. He was a prominent man in Providence Plantations and died in Warwick, R.I. in 1677.
Samuel (2) Gorton, born in Manchester, England in 1630 married Susannah Barton on Dec. 11, 1684. He was a Captain in the Indian War, member of the upper house of the Assembly, Assistant Judge and all-around prominent man. He died Sept. 6, 1724.
Samuel (3) Gorton was born in 1690 at Warwick, R.I. He married Freelove Mason on June 1, 1715. Moved to Swansey, Mass. where he died in July 1784.
Joseph (4) Gorton was probably born in Swansey. He married Mary Barton on Jan 1, 1762. Joseph was a soldier in the Revolution. Time of death unknown.
David (5) Gorton was born at Warwick on Nov. 24, 1768. He married Alice Whitford and settled in Mansfield, N.Y. where he died in or about 1830.
Joseph (6) Gorton was born at Warwick, R.I. on Nov. 7, 1792. He married Phoebe Baxter on Jan. 5, 1814 at Fondabush, N.Y. Joseph Gorton moved to Friendship, N.Y. in 1821 where he died in Dec. 1872. Phoebe died in Friendship on Mar. 19, 1869 and was buried at North Salem, N.Y. Joseph was a soldier in the war of 1812.
Orpha Elizabeth Gorton was born April 25, 1826. She died July 10, 1909. She was one of five daughters of Joseph Gorton, who also had four sons.
The Births page in our old family Bible records me at the bottom of the list of three boys, one girl and then three more boys. Evidently I was born on June 19, 1867, on which date two other historically significant events occurred. Maximillian was beheaded and the U.S. purchased Alaska. I was born on a farm in the township of Wirt (Allegany County, N.Y.) four miles south of the Village of Friendship, N.Y., in the locality known as East Hill and at one time as Twin Hill on account of the number of twins in the vicinity.
My first 13 years were spent on the farm on which I was born, and I recall some of the many events during that time, one case happening when I was just old enough to remember. Brother Frank induced brother George to touch his tongue on an iron bar during very cold weather, not expecting that he would do it so completely. They had to take him into the house by the fire and thaw him loose. While still quite young I got two fingers caught in the cog wheel of a cutting box. The Doctor thought that they would have to be amputated, but very fortunately for me, he patched them up and I still have them as good as ever.
At one time I tried to train a pair of calves as they do oxen. One day I had them hitched to a big hand sled and trying to drive them but for some unknown reason they made a break and ran away with me on the sled giving me an exciting ride.
Making maple sugar was an important part of farming and during this period a fire has to be kept going night and day under the sugar pan and the maple sap is kept boiling until its required thickness is obtained. On this day Father had to go to town and I was in full charge. At evening I went home to do the chores putting in so much wood that when Father got home and went to the sugar bush, all the big batch of sugar was burned up and the big sugar pan was ruined.
When bother Adrian came home from the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, he brought me a pair of guinea pigs. We put a box under the ground with a good run way so they would have a warm home. I only had them a short time when someone ripped out the box and took the whole outfit and we never saw or heard of them again.
I recall getting up very early long before day break and walking four miles to the village to see the then famous Dan Rice Circus come into town. In those days such outfits travelled from place to place overland by horse power as the only way possible. Several of us boys got a job carrying water for the animals, having the promise of seeing the show, but all we got was a glass of pink lemonade. The one act that impressed me most was about twenty men dressed in red coats walking around the circus ring carrying on their shoulders a platform on which a beautiful snow white horse, called the most beautiful horse in the world, was posed.
One of the earliest events that I remember was when I was 4 years old. I got a pair of copper-toed boots with red tops for Christmas, and we went down to Grandmother Latta's for Christmas and it was very cold. I can never forget how my feet hurt when Grandmother pulled them off. That is the only remembrance that I have of how Grandmother Latta looked, for she passed away soon after.
While very young I can recall seeing Grandfather Gorton, lying sick in bed, and he had a genuine Grandfather clock (without the case) on the wall. He had a hole in the floor so the weights that ran the clock could go down into the basement. I never saw him again, for he passed away when I was only five years old, but I remember being left at a neighbor's home while my family went to his funeral. I think that the most appealing and longest lasting continuing events in my younger days was the annual visits to the County Fair. Father was a Life Member of the Valley Point Fair held at Cuba, N.Y. every fall, and the whole family always attended. I do not know how old I was when I started going, but I recall the very early getting up and getting all of the chores done so we could get an early start for the long 13 mile drive over rough and hilly country roads. The wonderful exhibits and the races certainly appealed to my young mind. On one of these trips we stopped in the village of Friendship and picked up my sister Lillie who was attending Baxter University of Music. She worked on some fancy work which she exhibited at the Fair and secured a prize. On another trip, on the road between Friendship and Cuba, I counted over 100 hay stacks on one farm.
I will never forget an accident that I saw that occurred at one of these times, right close to our wagon, while watching the races. In those days nearly every farmer had what they called a platform spring wagon that had a permanent seat in front and one or two removable seats so the wagon could be used for many purposes. At this time right close to us the back seat of one of these wagons came loose and a young woman in that seat fell over backwards and broke her neck, but it did not kill her. Several years later I saw her with a wire arrangement on her shoulders and head supporting her head. In these early days the Erie Canal was in operation as was the Genesee Valley branch running from Rochester, N.Y. to Port Allegheny, Penn. Cuba was one of the points it passed through and one of the stations where they changed horses and sometimes men as well. There was a large barn and considerable activity. It was of great interest to me to see those canal boats being pulled by horses on the tow path.
At certain times cheese factories sell their stock and the patrons hauled the cheese to the railroad for shipment. This time I went along with Adrian, and just before reaching the little village of Nile, one of the tires came off one of the wheels. We had to leave the heavy wagon in the middle of the road and, lucky for us, Mr. Pat Connor (our cheese maker) came along with his so-called dog cart, took the wheel and tire downtown and had it reset. We had a very long wait and so many turned out to pass our “wreck” that they made a good new road.
I will never forget riding on a big horse fork load of hay from a wagon load of hay up to the gable of the barn and being dumped far down in the hay mow, where father was there to rescue me.
I do not know how old I was when I started school, but in those days, age did not count, as all children began as soon as they were able to walk the distance to the school house, which in my case, was one mile and a half. I can just visualize that old Cooley School House with its large wide front door in the center of the building leading into a large entrance hall, room to brush and kick off snow, with a door in each end-- one for boys and one for girls. These doors led directly into the school room. At the ends of the hall there were shelves and nails for wraps and lunch pails. Off the boys' side was a door leading into a large wood shed and at the side of this door was the usual water pail with tin dipper used by all. In the school room was a long raised platform in the center of the front wall, with the teacher's desk and many misbehaving pupils sit facing the good pupils. A few feet in front of the teacher's desk was a large box stove with the stove pipe running clear to the back end of the building to help the heating of the building, and I remember one teacher having a small bunch of hickory switches tied up on that pipe in case he should need one. There was a solid plank bench running along both sides and back of the room, with several rows of double desks, which I remember were so high that in my first year I could not sit on the seat and have my feet tough the floor at the same time.
We had a Summer term and a Winter term, with a woman teacher in the summer and a man for the winter. The winter term was always much larger as many full grown young farmers attended, it being the slack season on the farms. I think I can recall all the teachers that I had. They were Josephine Brown, Lina Applebee, Inez Cleveland, and Ida Newton. The men were Sheldon Stanton, Thomas Eaton, Amos Wheeler, Charles Vincent, and George Gould. In those days teachers’ wages included board and room which was provided by all the parents in the district on a one day service. The teacher would notify a pupil each day to tell his parents what day he would be their guest. This system certainly gave the teacher a variety.
All over the territory, ever so far apart, were similar school houses known by the name of the nearest prominent farmer. Ours was Cooley School. Nearest in order, were Dimick, Cleveland, Pratt, Meek, and Scott School.
There was quite a bit of friendly rivalry among some of these schools. They conducted, among each other, Spelling Bees, Debating Contests by the parents, and other events. These school houses were the center of all public gatherings. They held school exhibitions, singing, lectures, occasionally a home talent show, religious services, etc.
In those times everyone had to furnish all their books, pencils, and slates-- paper pads were unknown and every pupil had to have a slate. There was not much of an adopted uniform system and there were many kinds of text books used. I still have the two principal books that I used-- Swinton's Word Book and Colton's New Introductory Geography. The present kindergartners have it different than we had it. The youngest as well as the oldest students had from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., with one hour for noon and one half-hour mid-morning and afternoon.
There was a small stream of water running about a mile from our school with a small pool just big enough to get into. Many a time we boys grabbed our lunch, eating it on the run, while undressing en route for we had to get back before the hour was up.
This was a hilly country and in the winter we did a lot of coasting. Sometimes they had a farm Bob-sleigh that would hold a lot of kids and a full grown man would ride ahead on the large hand sled at the end of the sleigh pole to steer it.
Though leaving the farm at the early age of thirteen, I had become of considerable help. Our farm was on rolling ground, and deep, so the back end could not be seen from the front end. There was a spring of water in the far corner and the pasture lots were at the rear end. There was a twenty acre woods, including the sugar bush on one side, through which two so-called roads ran, and were only used in the sugar season or the cattle passed at times. A cow path running along the side of the woods close to the fence was the main trail, and at late afternoon it was my duty to go down this path and get the cows. We had twenty-two cows and at the time of my leaving the farm I was milking five cows, brother George seven, and Father the other ten. I had my pick of the easiest milkers. We also had a number of horses and a span of small mules of which I had considerable charge.
At haying time we had a pole on the big sulky hay rake (instead of the usual one-horse thills) and I did all the hay raking. I drove this span to the cheese factory every morning with a good-sized load. We had a special platform built on the wagon that held several thirty to forty gallon milk cans. We also picked up some of our neighbors' cans on the way.
The Connor Cheese Factory was nearly three miles from our farm and located on the four corners at the intersection of the highway. At the top of the hill on our road, nearing the Cheese Factory, one could see the other patrons coming from all the other directions. At times there was quite a race to get in line to deliver our milk.
Before leaving the farm I want to relate an event that has meant a great deal in my life. When I was twelve years old, brother Frank and I started to drive to Friendship to attend a Temperance Lecture to be given by the world famous temperance lecturer Frances J. Murphy. We had a young horse that in going down a rather steep hill, objected to holding back our buggy and began kicking and trying to run away. At the foot of the hill was a level stretch leading as far as the Joel Scott farm where another hill begins. We thought it best not to attempt another hill, so we put the horse in Mr. Scott's barn and completed the trip by walking. At this wonderful lecture I signed the pledge and I still have that signed card. Now over a period of seventy years, I have yet to take my first drink of liquor.
My one and only playmate was Charley Torry who lived a good half-mile from us, so the usual children's playtimes were very limited.
When I was about ten years old, one of Father's old-time friends, Samuel Sherman, who was one of the first settlers in that region but had moved to Petersburg, Virginia, came back for a visit. While on his way home, I drove an old faithful horse (Flora) and took him over half way to the railway station for his train. He turned us around, heading me for home, and gave me the first money that I had ever received from anyone other than my own family.
Another of my annual highlights, from the time I was big enough to go, was every fall when Uncle Joe Gorton and band played their opening of The Original New Orleans Minstrels. This organization was formed in the year of my birth (1867) by Joe Gorton and L. P. Benjamin and was on the road for over fifty years. Mr. Benjamin was a world known freak cornetist, and owing to a peculiar gum and teeth formation, we was able to play a whole octave above other players. Joe Gorton was a concert pianist in his younger days, and was one of the best band leaders and composers. We always had a wonderful band with his show.
Our nearest neighbor, Matt Phinney, lived directly across the road from our house, but their house set way back from the road down an alley. In those days there was no rural mail delivery, and it was the practice among all the families living on The Hill, that whenever one of them went to the village they would bring what mail there was for any of the neighbors living between the Post Office and his home. Many was the time when I took their mail over to the Phinneys and always Grandmother Phinney would give me a chunk of maple sugar.
Mr. Phinney had a sister, Betsy, who had been bedridden for a number of years. One day their chimney burned out (which often happens, caused by an accumulation of soot catching fire) and Mrs. Amelia Phinney, who was a very fleshy and pleasant woman, went up on the roof of this house, which had a so-called lean-to built close to the ground, and from there she slipped and slid down the roof to the ground. Though she suffered no great damage, a very strange thing occurred due to the fire. The bedridden sister heard the commotion, jumped out of bed, and ran out of the bedroom-- expecting to find her sister killed. From that day on, strange to say, she seemed to have recovered entirely and led a normal life.
I remember going with Father and sister Lillie taking the milk to the cheese factory, then going a number of miles beyond to a wild section of land called Wolf Spring. Though its location prevented it from being put to any good use, it was the largest and finest spring that I ever saw. We left all the empty milk cans at the factory except one forty gallon can, which we stopped and washed on the way. There were hundreds of acres that were covered with wild blackberry bushes, taller than I was. We were there only a few hours and got the big can nearly full of the largest berries that I ever saw.
We had another near neighbor, James Smith, who lived nearly a mile from our farm on an upgrade bringing them higher than us. He was an expect snare drummer, as were two of his sons. Another son played fife, so they made a marshal band that played at many gatherings of various kinds. They practiced in the summer time on the lawn at the side of their house which we could hear very distinctly.
When I was twelve years old, Father exhibited a high grade Ayrshire cow at the Cuba Fair and to bring her home, I came with Derrick Willard, a farmer living on the East Notch Highway leading from Friendship to Richburg. He had a number of cattle and horses at the fair, so Father left me to come home with him. Mr. Willard's father-in-law, George Clapp, lived on the Cuba Friendship Road and we stopped there for supper. I was very bashful and would not go into the house, and I will never forget Mr. Willard coming down to the barn with a great big sandwich. He said, Eat that or I'll lick you. Off this East Notch Highway a so-called road led to the back end of our farm, which gave me about three miles to lead this cow over a very dark and lonely trip. I took down the rail fence into our pasture and took the well known cow path home. Believe me, I was glad to get there.
In June, 1879, the famous Triangle #1 oil well was brought in by O. P. Taylor. This was the first producing oil well in Allegany County. It was located in a wild section known as Pikeville and later some little distance away became Allentown, in honor of Riley Allen, a prominent oil man. A few days after the exciting news got around, Father, a couple brothers and I drove there to see the thing that was the beginning of the great Allegany County Oil Development.
There was already a portable bar there and lots of drinking. I saw the most brutal fight that one could ever want to see and it became very near being a murder which was only prevented by bystanders breaking it up.
In the fall of 1879, Father rented his farm to a Mr. Weston, a Herkimer County farmer, who did not take possession until April next. At this time brother Frank was attending Friendship Academy and knowing the family would soon move to town, I went with Frank beginning the fall term. Thus ended my farm life.
From now on my city life began in the village of Friendship.
Long ago in the early years of last century, when Township 3, Range 1 of the Holland Purchase formed a part of the old town Caneadea, the people of the various local cities throughout the region exhibited considerable rivalry against those of other places. Sometimes it was a friendly rivalry and sometimes it was of an unpleasant nature. In this township, tradition tells us, the inhabitants of the hills and the valleys were working against one another and frequently the disputes led to action and personal combat. One locality that whereon was built the first hamlet, called Friendship, was once designated Fighting Corners. In later years as settlement increased, the differences and animosities of the past were amicably settled and friendship prevailed; and in allusion to this period of reconciliation, the name Friendship was given to the settlement and also the subsequent township. As originally created on the 24th of March 1815, Friendship included all the territory of the town so named and also the present towns of Cuba, Wirt, Clarkville, Bolivar and Genessee. The old state road was already in use in 1815, although the bridges were not built until later.
In the Spring of 1880 our family moved from the farm on East Hill to the Village of Friendship, but now instead of being a large family only brother George and I were left to help keep the home fires burning. Sister Lillie had married and four of my brothers were in business or working away from home.
As I was already a student of Friendship Academy, I might relate some of the history, as well as some of my personal experiences in this quite famous institution. The school was organized in February 1848 by a number of prominent citizens to provide higher education than was then supplied by the far-apart districts. The High School was unknown then and a small college at Alfred Center was the only place available. The Friendship Academy brought many students from a wide territory – becoming quite famous as an institution of learning.
The Academy was a large three-story building located on East Main Street, about midway between what was originally two sections, but when the Railroad was built the so-called Four Corners became the center of town.
The first locomotive of the old reliable Erie Railroad arrived in Friendship on February 14, 1851. The school building was on the south side of the street sitting well back, with a nice front yard and a number of large elm trees. It had practically no back yard with a private residence quite close on the west side and an old cemetery still closer on the east side. This prevented all outside activities. This building had a very wide front door leading into a wide hall with wide stairs on either side, leading to the second and third floors. On the first floor was one classroom; a large room used as the town hall, band practice, and various other purposes. The second floor had a large room the entire width of the building which was the chapel, used by the entire school for studying, and in which the Principal heard all classes of science, foreign languages, etc. We also had a short religious session at the beginning of each school day. Leading from this chapel were two other classrooms.
The only grading done was based on Grammar, which was divided into three parts: Orthography, Etymology, and Syntax, and each of the three rooms taught the other common subjects.
I will always remember the teachers during all of my school days. There were Miss Ada Flint, Miss Mabel Hopper, Miss Elizabeth Crandal, and, of course, Professor Prosper Miller.
They always had home study hour from seven to nine p.m. The school bell was always rung at both these hours. One of my school friends, who occupied a small room in back of the building-- boarding there-- had the task of ringing this bell. He always went home on Fridays and I rang the bell for him, and you can imagine the pleasant walk I had going along the old cemetery to ring that bell.
Professor Miller was always on the job, as will as all around town, and one was lucky to be out during these strictly enforced study hours and not be observed by the professor. I recall when a bunch of scholars pulled off a party at the professor's brother's house a couple of miles out of town on a farm, and much to our surprise, in walked the professor. He did not say anything but sized us all up and the next morning in chapel we were all called up before him and he gave us a good going over. All I remember of this session was that he informed us that it was much more essential to educate our heads than our feet. The school building burned down in the fall of 1893.
Professor Miller was a fine man and beside teaching he had a few acres of land on which he farmed in a small way. He had a stone quarry, which he worked himself, and also did surveying and other things. The first dollar that I ever earned, other than from my family, was carrying the chain on one of his surveying jobs, and I received what looked big to me, a dollar a day. He had a nice two-story brick house across the road to where we lived and up the street a short ways. It was located on a high bank of Moss Brook. At one spring freshet, as they called it, this stream completely undermined the house which disappeared with all his household possessions. All that was left was a part of the walk leading into where the house had been.
Besides the Friendship Academy, Friendship had another important school. Professor James Baxter, noted for his musical ability, opened the Baxter University of Musical Learning in March 1853 – the first institution of musical learning in the United States. This uncommon school drew students from a very great territory. At one time there were 151 pupils from 16 states, 2 territories and Canada. During the number of years that this school was in operation, a considerable number of students married and settled in Friendship. The fact together with the fact that many musicians in shows made it their headquarters, made Friendship the home of more musicians than any other known place of its size. My uncle Joseph Gorton and his Original New Orleans Minstrels always lived here and was on the road with his famous Gold Band for over fifty years. Every year when starting out on his season's work. Some of the local boys would go along who had developed musical abilities during the summer, while the show took its regular summer lay-off.
For a small village, Friendship was a big show town. Mr. E. O. Rogers (who bought the farm I was raised on, for headquarters) started an Uncle Tom's Cabin tent show that did so well he expanded and leased twenty cages of animals and put on a very good circus. The next year he purchased the animals and had an even larger show, but was unlucky by becoming sick. The man who furnished the balloon ascension and parachute drop also transported an outfit of gamblers to follow the show, paying a nice sum. The only trouble was that when they went to texas, although they had a big crowd to see the parade, no one had the money to go to the show. As a result the show nearly went broke. My father, who had sold Rogers a lot of wagons and equipment, went to Texas to save what he could of the wreck, taking along a lawyer named A. L. Elliott to help with the legal end. They shipped two carloads of horses to Elliott's brother, who lived in Kansas, but unfortunately father never got a cent for all this stock. He also sold an elephant and a cage of lions to a Cincinnati zoo, but I don’t remember what was done with the rest.
During these years Mr. Rogers had bought a house in Friendship and Mrs. Lillie Rogers (who was a wonderful Topsy in Uncle Tom's Cabin) had a lot of friends. A few years later they had a theatrical show on the road, and though she begged Mr. Rogers not to play Friendship, they did anyway. She dropped dead on the stage at that performance.
In addition to Gortons Minstrels and Rogers Circus, we had Vreelands Minstrels, Middaugh-Phaff & Goodman show, George Olds Concert, etc.
Professor James Baxter had a very impressive personality-- tall and straight, he wore eye glasses and had a heavy head of snow white hair. I never saw him with a hat on, which in those days was uncommon. He almost always wore a Prince Albert coat and was quite active, taking long walks. He could be seen most any day somewhere about the near-by country. When I was a small boy still on the farm, the first time that I saw him he was riding a so-called velocipede. It had two quite large wooden wheels of the same size in line with a seat between. It had no pedals and was propelled by one foot at a time reaching the ground, thus furnishing the power. This was one of the first known bicycles. Friendship has also a national honor of being the birthplace of the Republican Party. A convention called by A. N. Cole, Editor of the Free Press of Allegany County, was held in the old Baptist Church (now the GAR Hall on Island Park) in the town of Friendship, NY. Not being able to agree on a suitable name, they consulted Horace Greely, who suggested Republican Party. It was so called, and thus the Republican Party came into being on May 16, 1854.
My first summer vacation after moving into town, I have related of having earned one dollar a day carrying a surveyors chain, but that job was very short lived. My next job was working for the village pathmaster, driving a team of horses working on a pile driver. It consisted of pulling up the heavy weight to the top of the tower where it tripped causing the hammer to fall striking the pile. I made a good many trips a day, but did not get very far, as when reaching the distance of the tower’s height, I turned the team around and started all over again. I received $1.25 a day, which was a lot for a kid in those days.
Instead of going back to school in the fall, I went to work for Lester D. Cooley on August 20, 1880. He was a very fine young man, recently out of college, who built and furnished an up-to-date dry goods store and conducted it in first-class style. Always a stickler for neatness and style, he was certainly a model in personal appearance as well as keeping the store in the same condition. I was just a kid and not supposed to know much, but I received valuable advice and instruction from Mr. Cooley, who took lots of pains to see that I became accustomed and competent to wait on customers. At slack periods he would act as a customer and I would show him different lines of goods, and if not satisfied I would show him something else, always telling him prices. He would call for things that I had never heard of so that in a very short time I knew just what we had in the store and the prices of them. I learned more in the time I worked for him than I could have learned in school or any other place.
I started this position with no fixed salary, beginning with none, and was to be paid according to my ability and increasing on that basis. I do not remember the various amounts I received, but know that it was satisfactory. I worked in that store seven months to the day, and the last one a Sunday. I went to the store, swept out, dusted, took down the curtains, etc., so that I would not have to go to work so early Monday morning, but I got up anyway at about 3 a.m. to watch a big fire entirely destroy the store, together with J. L. Molls Shoe Store and Flint & Warner's store on the corner of Main and Depot Streets.
That fire recalls a very serious accident to which I was a very close witness. I was across the street watching it, as many others were, when Mr. Fred Mulkin, then foreman of Elliott Hose Company, reached up to let down the awning of the store to protect the window glass. He was a little too late, for the heat from across the street caused the plate glass to go to pieces and one of those pieces struck Mr. Mulkin high on his cheek, shearing the whole side of his face. I was right next to him at that moment, when he slapped that whole side of his face back, he said, For God's sake don't tell Mother. She was then very sick and he didn't want to upset her. The flesh grew back again, but left a bad scar. The Flint & Warner store had one of the first Edison Phonographs ever produced and was purchased by Les Flint and Charley Helm. They traveled around the country exhibiting it. It was ruined in the fire and afterwards lay in the street-- no one thinking of its historical value later. This machine was all iron with an iron cylinder five or six inches in diameter. It was mounted on a suitable iron stand with a short crank, about four inches long attached. This was before the days of cylinders or discs and a sheet of tin foil was placed on the cylinder very firmly. On this tin foil a speech or some other program was recorded and could be repeated several times, but it could not be preserved or used again.
The day after the fire I again entered Friendship Academy for another stretch, which lasted until January 25, 1882.
I started in as trotter and all-round apprentice in the Citizens National Bank in Friendship (which was built on the same lot that Mr. Cooley's store had been located). This job paid no salary for the first year, which was the usual thing for beginners in banking. Mr. Herman Rice and Mr. Ward Rice, who were former Herkimer County farmers, controlled a majority of the stock. Although neither of them was an officer of the bank, they made it their headquarters-- especially Ward, who was as regular as the cashier on the job. The cashier was forced to take Ward's advice whether he liked it or not. They each had two sons. Ward's older one was the bookkeeper and Herman's younger one was away at college. I knew that my chances of receiving a paying position were very slim.
Mr. William H. Scott owned and operated a good store-- drugs on one side, groceries on the other. He wanted me to go to work for him and would pay me fifty dollars per year and board. I decided to learn to be a Druggist, so I quit the Bank job and went to work for Mr. Scott. I became a member of a family other than my own. Mrs. Scott was a wonderful cook and they had a full-grown daughter and a young son, Don. Little Don was the cause of my wearing eye glasses all these years. One day I sat out on the front step and he had a wooden dagger, made from an advertising ruler, and he was playing Indian. He came up behind me and pretended to scalp me. I turned to grab him and the sharp stick struck me on the top left eye ball. It was my fault for trying to grab him. He later became a famous photographer and demonstrator for Eastman Kodak Company. There was also a young lady Academy student, Miss Emma Tibbets, who boarded during school weeks. We always had plenty to eat. I have not the exact date, but it was about 1882. I was again disappointed about prospects for becoming a druggist for about all of the time that I was on the Drug side of the store I swept and dusted, etc.
This was about one of the most remarkable periods that ever happened to a small town, and the facts that I am going to relate may seem exaggerated. But for those of us who lived through this period that would be impossible.
The Richburg Oil Well was brought in in 1881, which produced the great Allegany County Oil Boom. Richburg was a small seventh day community of from 150 to 200 inhabitants and situated nine miles from Friendship Village. Friendship was the nearest town with a railroad, so it got a great amount of benefit from the boom. All the through-Erie trains stopped now, and there were a great number of stage lines between the two places. All the oil men and those who wanted to be would pay any price to get themselves over as quickly as possible. The competition to secure oil leases was fierce. Friendship secured most all of the business of the boom town, which grew from 200 to 4000 inhabitants within a few months. You can imagine the size of the grocery orders we handled. Boarding houses bought as high as 100 pounds of coffee and other goods correspondingly.
At this time the Olean & Friendship Narrow Gauge Railroad was built from Friendship as far as Bolivar and a little later continued to Olean. Several years later it was built from Friendship to Angelica, NY and still later was extended to Wayland, NY, where it connected with the D.L. and W.R.R. This railroad went through many reorganizations-- Olean & Friendship, Allegany Central, Lackawanna & Pittsburg, Lackawanna & Southwestern, Central New York & Western, and Pittsburgh Shawmut & Northern, all made into a standard gauge and built extensions into St. Marys, Pennsylvania and into the extensive Shaumot Coal Field.
The store being closed on Sundays, I took many trips on the construction train, taking care of the small son of the Superintendent. After this railroad was completed you can imagine the amount of freight that was handled. The road being a narrow gauge, everything had to be transferred from one train to the other. At one time there were forty men working on this job.
My oldest brother Emmit had a harness shop and saddlery hardware store and brother Adrian, the next in age, had a furniture store. The consolidated the two businesses under the firm name of Latta Brothers and had just completed a fine new brick two-story store complete with basement, just in time to take advantage of the new oil rush. During this rush the furniture, of course, was the principal business and they sold an immense amount of mostly cheaper-class boarding house equipment. Brother George drove their delivery wagon making two trips a good many days. They needed more help and as I could get much more than the fifty dollars per year that I was getting for a hard grocery job, I left Mr. Scott's employ and went to work for the Latta Brothers. I worked mostly with brother George on the delivery.
This was in 1883, and I made quite a number of trips to Richburg with George and saw the boom town. They had a nice bank, several hotels, a very large opera house, and ran some of the big New York City shows direct to Richburg. In some of my early trips, one could see lines of men half a block long waiting for a chance to get to a lunch counter. Most of the buildings were of the cheapest construction – for instance, they would place short lengths of a log on the ground for a foundation, lay a 6 by 8 inch timber on them for sills, then end up hemlock boards one inch think and twelve inches wide about twelve feet long, nailing the top to about a 4 by 6 timber. They would then lay a rough board floor and move in, sometimes even before the roof was on. Later on batons would be nailed over the cracks.
Just as this oil field was having its big days, in May 1882, the famous Cherry Grove Oil Field in Pennsylvania came in and the rush was on, drawing the mobs away from Richburg.
Of course this naturally killed our furniture business in that field and brother George went to work on the Erie Railroad as a Locomotive fireman. This made me head of the delivery department and I wish that you could have seen our outfit at that time. We had a fine delivery wagon with not very high sides but long, with gold lettering reaching the entire length reading Friendship Furniture and Latta Bros. on the back end. We also had sled runners to replace the wheels for winter. We had a pair of handsome jet black horses so near alike that you could hardly tell them apart. They were not twins, but their mothers were sisters from the same father, and strangely enough they were born on the same day. There were only about fifty pounds difference in their weight. We kept them loose in a large box stall and they never fought over their feed.
We sold furniture over a wide territory and I delivered in many small towns. Bolivar, which was only a couple of miles from Richburg, became the home of most everyone who left Richburg. It was much better built and became a very substantial and up-to-date village. Some of my deliveries were at Nile, Little Genesee, Wirt Center, Black Creek, Belfast, Ormel, Filmore, Belmont, Scio Belvidere, Cuba, and a wide farming territory.
In 1879, Latta Brothers had added a Bicycle Department and in 1884 they sold their furniture and harness business. They did not sell the building but leased it to the new owners, retaining the second floor in which they conducted one of the first bicycle stores in the U.S.
Brother Emmit was a professional inventor and mechanical expert. He had issued to him over 200 patents on saddlery, hardware tools and equipment and then he turned out over 80 bicycle improvements. One of them was, I think, the first so-called safety bicycle in the U. S. They had it manufactured in England. Instead of the usual 52, 54, or 56 inch high wheel, it had a 36 inch front wheel with the front forks extended down about 18 inches, with chain drive on both sides. This Salvo Safety weighed 85 pounds and I rode it at the head of the League of American Wheelmen's sixth annual meet in Buffalo, N. Y. on July 2-3, 1885. By my side was Dr. Beckwith of New York City, the President of the L. A. W., and he rode a 64 inch full nickel plated Columbia bicycle. The spectators tried to josh me by advising me to get a man-sized bicycle. From that Salvo the now known safety bicycle was developed by gradually making the front wheel lower and the rear one higher, and by putting the chain gear on the rear wheel. Eventually both wheels became the same size.
In 1885 they had manufactured in England the American Pilot and the American Express bicycles which had many of Emmit's improvements. I was the first man in the U. S. to sell bicycles on the road. They sent me on several trips to show these new models and I covered some small towns that had never seen a bike. One of my prospective customers was Congressman Wadsworth on new York, who lived in Geneseo, N. Y.
After Latta Brothers sold their furniture store, I took a trip to visit my brother Frank who was the station agent of Verndale, Minn., on the Northern Pacific R. R., and brother Sam who had a ranch in North Dakota near Englevale, also only a few miles from Lisbon By the way, there were quite a few former Friendship folks in this section. Jim Wisner, the inventor of the Tiger Revolving Hay Rake, established a bank and a large flouring mill in Lisbon and he became wealthy. He later got the mining fever, went down to Honduras, and from all reports, lost all that he had made.
Englevale was named after Mayor Engle, formerly of Friendship, and Marshal, N. Dak., was named after Marshal David, also from N. Y. from the town of Scio, who married a Friendship girl. These towns were all located on the Fargo and Southwestern R. R., a branch of the Northern Pacific.
I made this trip sailing on the steamship Japan from Buffalo, N. Y., to Duluth, Minn. It was a combined freight and passenger carrier and was the finest boat on the lakes. We made long stops at all the principal ports and the Captain would tell us how long we would be in so that we could take in a few sights. I fell in with a young son of the manufacturer of Whites Youkotan Chewing Gum of Cleveland, and we chummed it all during the trip. We made a long stop at Erie. Penn., where they took aboard coal enough for the round trip, and at Detroit the Captain told us they would be there about eight hours, so White and I took in a matinee of Thacher Primrose and West Minstrels. I don’t remember any other particulars. I went direct from Duluth to Verndale for a visit with brother Sam and his young son, Clyde.
Sam was divorced and they had a young farm hand who did the cooking and they all helped do the work. It was just harvest time when I arrived and they were cutting the wheat. He had four horses and four mules and one self binder, using the four at a time running the binder the entire 24 hours during the rush. I got on the binder and drove around the field and I though that I would never get back as it was such a large field of wheat. Another experience that I had was with young Clyde. We took a shot gun and went several miles after prairie chickens. We reached a small body of water not large enough to call a lake, where we found a few of what I thought to be ducks. I shot one that fell into the water and the only way to recover it was to undress and swim in after it. This I did, and got tangled up in a lot of a sort of weed and I was mighty glad to get out alive. To cap the climax, the duck turned out to be a worthless mud hen.
I don't remember how long I stayed there but I headed back east again, stopping with Frank who came back as far as Chicago with me.
I again went back to the Friendship Academy, which in the meantime had been reorganized as Friendship Military Academy under the management of Professor Thatcher. I did not join the military department which required wearing uniforms and drilling, etc. During this time I did the bookkeeping and helped with other work for Latta Brothers and also my father who occupied the ground floor of a large warehouse in the rear of the furniture store. He handled a line of wagons, carriages, and all kinds of agricultural and dairy implements, supplies, etc.
Owing to the fact that brother Frank was a telegrapher, I decided to try for this line of work. I promoted an amateur gang of ten or twelve young fellows and built a telegraph line which nearly covered the whole town. We developed some very good operators. One case in particular that I remember was a Mr. Riley who came from Buffalo, N. Y., and had bought out C. L. Howards Dry Goods Store. He had a young son who had never seen anything other than level ground and at first was afraid that the hill, close to the house they had just moved into, would fall on them. Mr. Riley came to see me and wanted to know what it would cost for his boy to come in on this line. He said the boy was crazy about telegraphy and was absolutely no good in the store. I sold him an outfit, and the way that young man picked up telegraphy beat anything I ever saw or heard of. In less than two months he was an operator in the Buffalo Western Union office, and a few months later he was transferred to New York to be assigned to a hot press wire.
I will never forget one incident that occurred to me while I was running a line to connect Frank Fuild, son of the proprietor of the Mansion House (which burned down years ago). This hotel was on Depot Street with the side running about three feet from the back end of the stores on Main Street. I stood on the roof of one of the stores and reached across that vacant space to attach a bracket to the hotel. It took so long that my strength was about all gone and I thought that I would never be able to push myself back to the roof.
On Dec. 20, 1885, I entered the Bryant & Stratton Business College in Buffalo, only a few days before Christmas. Brother Emmit had to go to Buffalo on business and I went with him rather than see Santa. This college advertised no vacations, although just the day I got there they started a two-week vacation to move from the old Brown building on Seneca Street to a new location in the German Insurance Building on Main Street, the side of which faced Lafayette Square. They occupied the entire third floor and had all new equipment. It was the finest school of its kind in the U. S. It would have cost me as much railroad fare to go home and back as it did to stay there, so they said that I could use a desk in their office and the two weeks would count as one on my tuition. In that way I became the first and only student of the college in their new location. This was a wise move for there was, at most all times, some of the teachers around ready and willing to answer any of my questions and giving me valuable advice.
In addition to the regular studies, there were several small model offices in which students conducted various lines of business. This enabled the students to learn the right way to properly operate when they entered real lines of business. The highest and last of these was the bank and as I had some real experience in this field, they put me in that office as a bank cashier, and I thus did not have to fill some of the other positions. The final requirement of the bookkeeping study was to work out the actual days business of the Manufacturer and Traders Bank, one of Buffalo's leading banks. A special set of blank books was required and I received top marks on this item. The instructors had small rubber stamps with Approved on one side and Excellent on the other, which they used on all our markings. If your work was not good enough to get approved, you had to do it over again.
In recalling some of these old happenings, it brings to mind, now and then, things rather unusual, for instance: this school had a special English department for those lacking proper standing. This case was a young man considerably older than the rest of us, who came here from Georgia. He was a Fireman on a railroad and had been promoted to Engineer, but was unable to accept it because of not being able to read or write. To see this full-grown man wrestling with the ABC's was out of the ordinary. He was brought up during the Civil War, and as there were no schools in that part of the South, he had never been to school a day. He was a likable fellow and we were all glad to help him whenever possible. He had many interesting experiences during the war and could relate them very well. He always carried a razor, in true southern style, instead of a gun.
On several Sundays, several of us would go to Niagara Falls, which would only cost 50Ę for the round trip. We would see the Ice Gorge and even walk across to Canada on it.
In my boarding house on Delaware Avenue, there were four medical students and four Bryant students. Two of the latter were Olean boys, Jim McLowery and Willis Chamberlain. We became very good friends and several years later I was located in Olean where Chamberlain and I renewed our friendship. McLowery had located in Buffalo and I never saw him but once thereafter. In 1922, when I and my family located in Glendale, California, the Chamberlains came here and since that time we have been the best of friends. Although Mr. Chamberlain and Mrs. Latta have passed on, Mrs. Chamberlain and myself keep up our old friendship.
I graduated from the Bryant and Stratton Business College on May 1, 1886, and returned to my old job with Latta Brothers, Importers and Dealers in Bicycles, until April 1, 1887. We exhibited lines of bicycles at the Cuba and Angelica Fairs and I did some trick riding and bicycle racing, winning several silver cups, badges, etc. We sold a Victor Tricycle to a doctor in Andover, N. Y., and I delivered it to him, advising him not to ride too much at first and to take it easy until broken in. I met him a short time after and he said he thought than I was a darn fool and that he knew what he was good for, but he found that I was right. He rode until near midnight and the next morning was unable to get out of bed.
In 1879, the year that my brothers added bicycles to their business, the League of American Wheelmen was organized and for about thirty years was a very important link in the bicycle business. I have the honor of being the youngest member ever to join that organization. Their age limit was 18 years. My 18th birthday was June 19 and to be sure that I could attend their 6th annual meet in Buffalo on July 2 and 3, I made a special request to headquarters and was admitted one day before reaching the required age. My first official number was No. 2432 and on Jan. 1, 1898, I was conferred the rank of Veteran and given the advance No. 629. I have, under date of 1897, and honor certificate of loyal work done in that year, and 22 annual membership cards of L. A. W. up to 1907, when they folded up. I Was holding # 264. I also acted as Consul for a number of years.