of Frances Harriet Price Zufelt
Along Lake Ontario
Town of Richland,
by Julie Litts Robst.
Many thanks for sharing this wonderful history and accomplishments of a
member of her family, Frances Zufelt. So much has been written
lives of men, while sadly neglecting the contributions of women in history.
Frances Harriet Price Zufelt
- Born, August 21, 1901 at Port Ontario,
Richland Township, Oswego County,
New York - Died, October 09, 1999 at
Oswego, Oswego County, New York.
Newspaper Article - May 24,
1988 Salmon River News - Pulaski, New York
Frances Zufelt, Rural Life Along
When the Oswego
County Legislature named Frances Zufelt co-runner up for
Oswego County Senior Citizen of
the Year a couple of weeks ago, they honored
a woman who honorably represents
her generation of feminine strength and
loyalty in rural America, a woman
who combines the exemplary traits of
mother, daughter, grandmother, wife,
teacher, helper and volunteer. She has
told fragments of her life story
on tape for the Pulaski Historical Society
Museum and in interviews. The highlights
in this article are combined from
came from hardy stock. Her ancestors were the pioneers who
settled the west when the west for
New Englanders was the densely forested,
unknown land of New York State.
Some of these ancestors fought in the War of
Independence before they went west;
others on the family tree fought in the
Civil War after they moved here.
The land along
the shores of Lake Ontario in the winter were bitter cold
when the pioneers arrived in wagons
with all their family possessions and the
family cow hitched behind when the
century turned over to 1800. They usually
came in January and February when
they could cross the many streams, rivers
and marshes while they were frozen.
Otherwise they would have to wait until
summer and that would be to late
to plant crops for harvesting before the
all-purpose horse would pull the heavy load and if they were
fortunate enough they would bring
a team of oxen, though that was a rare sign
of wealth. Some of them arrived
to the harshness of crude camps built in
clearings by the men the season
before; others less fortunate finished their
first winters here in crude lean-to's
and even tents. Some of them were
running from religious and government
oppression; others pioneered for the
opportunity to be landowners.
Their new land
was inhabited by all kinds of wild animals, bears,
panthers, timber wolves, lynx, deer
and rivers teaming with salmon. Some were
fearsome to humans, others provided
their daily food. Indians camped along
the river and lake during the good
weather where they fished and hunted.
Those early pioneers
who survived were made of tough threads. The
struggles carving farms out of forest
never touched before by man made men
out of young boys. Hauling water
from hand dug wells, keeping fires in open
hearths, preparing food from what
was available in the wild, making soap,
candles, maple sugar, weaving the
cloth to make all the family clothes,
having babies without medical care
and combating illness that took many
lives, sometimes wiping out entire
heritage was established in the beginning of local
history. She is the great-great-grandchild
of Benjamin Winch, a surveyor who
came from New England to help mark
out the parcels of the new land and became
a useful and influential citizen
in the he area. He settled first in Mexico,
then moved up the lakeshore to the
mouth of the Salmon River in 1801, then up
the river to what was then named
Fish Creek (now Pulaski) where he opened the
first tavern about 1806 on land
by the river now occupied by the Log Cabin
Frances was born
in 1901 in the same house her father was born in 40
years before on a farm located on
the east side of Route 3 across from the
Pine Grove entrance to Selkirk Shores
State Park at Port Ontario, the
daughter of Harriet Daphne Brown
and Henry Davis Price.
She would spend
her early life in the district where the family names
still bear out her ancestry today.
Her mother's family descended from
Benjamin Winch through the marriage
of his daughter, Sally, to Daniel Brown,
their nine children and grandchildren.
Brown was the first settler on the
north side of the Salmon River.
His family that included the Twitchell's,
settled where the Joss and Heilig
farms are now located.
many of her ancestors came here from Connecticut and the
Hudson River area after the Erie
Canal opened up in 1825. Many of them
stopped for a year or so at places
like Saratoga Springs, breaking up the
trip. Some of them were exciting
characters and their lives portray different
aspects of pioneer life along the
shores of Lake Ontario.
mother was Julia Ann Litts, who was born in 1825 and came
with her family from Kinderhook
in 1830. Information on a deed reveals that
Daniel H. Litts, a shoemaker
and farmer, bought 100 acres of land for $1000
at Port Ontario, a large sum of
money at that time. The Litts family once
owned all the land from Route 3
to the lake, they sold for Selkirk Shores
State Park in the 1920's. Frances
Zufelt remembers a large chestnut grove
that eventually blasted.
The Price ancestry
includes Colonel Rufus Price, a colonel in the
Revolutionary Army, an aide in Washington's
staff, and a pensioner who
settled in Richland in 1808. His
wife was Ruth Grant who was related to
General Grant. Rufus Price
dealt out land from his farm some place around
Douglaston Manor to what is now
Atkinson Road. This is one of the ancestral
branches of the Barclay family.
was a colorful character. He became a sailor in his teens
when 14 to 16 year-olds were considered
men. He became a commercial vessel
Captain on the Great Lakes. There
was a story told about him being honored
and presented with a gold-headed
cane for being the first boat to break
through the ice of Lake Superior
one year and take needed goods to the people.
Mrs. Zufelt also
remembers that her great-great-grandmother Schmidt spoke
only Dutch and that embarrassed
her grandmother Julia's brother Lewis Litts,
because she couldn't speak English.
Her great-grandfather, Ralph Price, had
three wives including Rebecca
Weed, the mother of all the children, her
sister Polly, and Aunt Fanny
It was not unusual
for men to have several wives since women did not
endure the hardships of pioneer
life as well. There were many illnesses
including consumption, typhoid,
tuberculosis, smallpox, and other childhood
diseases that were killers in those
times. Not the least of these was
Port Ontario and Grindstone Creek were related."
Frances says, "I lived in a very
small household, an only child and there
were very few children in our district.
There were three cases of marriage
between the Litts' and Price's.
We didn't know anyone outside our school
district. I never knew Lewis
Zufelt in my younger days even though he was
born and grew up just a few miles
up the road on Route 3."
the one and a half story house had a well room lined with
racks for the milk pans used for
setting the cream that was later churned
into butter. She imagines the hard
work it took to clear the 100 acres of
farm land that supported the family
of three daughters and one son. There is
a story remembered of her grandmother,
who married in 1850, when she walked
through the dense forest to see
the train on the new railroad.
was exciting for a small child in late August, she says,
recalling the neighbors exchanging
help to get the hay in, stack the oats,
and thresh the oats to mash with
a thresher powered by soft coal. "It was a
hot and heavy job. The women served
to school at District 12 - the Bethel District where the
community center is now located
on the north side of the Salmon River at the
intersection of Lake Road. But she
couldn't go there all year. When the river
froze over, then thawed and flooded
the causeway, it was dangerous for anyone
to cross, so she went off to school
at the Page District across from the main
entrance to Selkirk Shores State
Park where Murphy's restaurant is now
located, a mile walk from her house.
were much alike. Mrs. Zufelt remembers there was a front
entry flanked by two coatrooms and
a shelf for the water pail. Water was
carried by the pail from the neighbors
house and raising and lowering the
flag was a privilege. There was
a wood burning box stove built of cast iron.
There were eight
grades in the country schools. "I believe I was the only
one on my grade and for years I
was the youngest child. There were not many
children in the area and it seemed
like there were not many all over." Mrs.
the names Twitchell's, Allport's, Cliff Lynn, Audrey
Seiter, Litts', the Sharp sisters
when she grew up and attended the Bethel
School. She went to the Page District
with the Atkinson's, Gladys, Mabel,
Fred and Cole (their two
brother's drowned in Grindstone Creek), Earl
Waterbury, Martin and
Marvin Robbins and others she would meet again in a new
role - as their teacher. Her teachers
were Nellie Price Brown, Frances Brown
and Martha Ingersoll.
was nearing the finish of the eighth grade and after she had
passed her regents, Principal Bartlett
from the Pulaski school district paid
a visit on her parents and encouraged
them to send her to school in the
village. Her fatal flaw, she says
was math, she was required to pay tuition
until she conquered it.
"I stayed with
my Aunt Eva (Calkins) Litts, widow of Fred Litts, who had
died in 1909. Fred Litts II inherited
the farm so she moved to the village. I
paid her $1.25 board per week. It
was a labor of love for my mother to hitch
up the horse and take me to Pulaski
every Monday morning and pick me up every
Friday. She would bring meat and
vegetables to help with my expenses."
high school was a "pleasant interlude" and enjoyed the
debating societies. One of her classmates
was Miss Mack, known later to many
in the community as Mrs. Lura
"We had two bad
years of the flu, I think 1914 and 1917. Then during
1919, we were in World War I, and
country school teachers were scarce because
teachers were going to work at other
things for better pay and the war
effort. I knew I was going to graduate
from high school (despite the problem
with math that she eventually conquered
- even algebra, geometry and
intermediate algebra.) "It was a
great thrill and accomplishment to graduate
from high school. One day J.
M. Bonner called me out of chapel, which was
study hall, and asked me to go to
training school because there was a great
need for teachers in the rural schools."
An avid reader
of the Saturday Evening Post, she read about a program
available for high school graduates
to attend normal school and obtain a
permit to teach two years in a district
school. She decided to graduate and
pursue that avenue.
"I took the six-week
course at Oswego Normal by the lake. I didn't learn
a darn thing, but I had lots of
fun. When I finished I went back to teach at
the Page District, the same kids
I went to school with, some of them smarter
than me. But we had no problems.
When I played with them on the playground, I
was Frances. When I was in the school
I was Miss Price."
She earned $12
per week the first year, $15 per week the second year.
"They were two wonderful years.
I had some triumphs and one defeat - a girl
who hated school and couldn't wait
to quit and two boys I couldn't teach to
Frances was one
of a few local girls, including Katherine Brown and Ruth
Calkins Whitcomb, who went
to Albany in 1921 to earn a four year teaching
degree. The tuition was free, room
and board money had to be earned.
"We drove to
Richland and waited for the Rochester train. It cost $11
round trip. We didn't come home
much except for holidays. It was very strict.
We couldn't take cuts like they
When she graduated
with her A. B. degree, she came back and taught in the
Bellville and Adams schools. While
she was at Adams, she married Lewis Zufelt
"It was naughty
to get married when you were under contract to teach in
those days I was boarding. When
it came time to renew my contract, that was
it." She and Lewis were paying for
a home on the Port Road near the
intersection of Route 3. "I wasn't
going to be away. I was a young lady and
feisty, not in tune with the employment
situation. Nobody was going to tell
me where to live. We were entering
the 30's. Times weren't good. I was lucky
to get a job at Shortsville as a
librarian and English teacher where there
were 100 students in the high school.
I ended up having to board away during
the week anyway. I went to Syracuse
University for two summer schools to hold
my job. I stayed for four years
until I got pregnant and we had our home farm
"We had to live
hand to mouth then. We had two children born at the Port,
Elinor and John. Lewis was
working at the park on the C C C project under the
military. It was a lifesaver for
us. We moved to the Zufelt farm on Route 3
Jan. 1, 1938 when Lewis' mother
died. We sold the house and three acres at
the Port to pay the mortgage on
the farm. Then Charlie Brooks was good enough
to finance us with 6% interest so
we could buy cattle and equipment. The day
we finally paid that debt, I went
hooping over the hills declaring we own it,
we own it. It was our home for 39
"When a teacher
was needed at Henderson, I employed a housekeeper who
wanted a job as bad as I wanted
her. I left to board for the week. The first
week of school, she died in the
kitchen. I finished the two days left that
week and had to resign. Later we
had two more children, Thomas and William,
better known as Bump. When I was
65 years-old, I accepted a job in the A. P.
W. junior-senior high school as
a librarian. I had 18 credits of library
science and they needed a trained
librarian. It was a wonderful year. Since
then I submitted at Pulaski and
In the time that
lapsed between her teaching days, Frances Zufelt raised
her family and helped her husband
on the Route 3 farm, bought by his maternal
great-grandfather William Wheeler,
with his pension from the Civil War.
Wheeler is a family name that reaches
back into the very early settlement of
Sandy Creek. Two William Wheelers,
father and son, were among the 220 sons of
the town of Sandy Creek sent to
the Union Army and Navy during the rebellion.
The town raised $35,000 for bounties
to volunteers. Only one came home, the
William Wheeler enlisted in 1862 and then re enlisted in the
middle of the Civil War because
he served four and one half years. His father
enlisted for just two years service,
fought at Gettysburg, and just about
when his time was to run out, he
died in the Mississippi River campaign of a
disease or wound. He was buried
near New Orleans."
Caroline (Massie) Wheeler had three children, two of them
died in childhood. Their daughter,
ora, married Fred Zufelt. The Zufelt farm
was the place where several Zufelt
children of two generations were born,
"When we moved
to the farm, it had something we lacked at Port Ontario.
It had wonderful water that was
piped in 1900 across the road and down the
hill to the house and barn. When
the DOT built the road in 1929-30, they
raised havoc with the free flowing
water and broke down the walls of the
reservoir. They had to be rebuilt."
The house was not wired. We got the
electric line about 1927-28. We
used gasoline motors for the washing machine
and milk machines. Money was scarce.
We canned vegetables, made bacon and
hams and our hens raised eggs. We
had red raspberry bushes and sold the
berries roadside. I bartered the
eggs for staples and the children's clothes.
We increased our herd and sent more
milk to Dairylea. We had two horses and
never more than 30 cows and young
"When I had Bump,
he weighed five pounds soaking wet. The children
brought yellow roses back from the
May Hill school that used to be at the top
of the hill."
The May Hill
District was named after the David May family who first
owned and settled the property owned
later by the Wheeler and Zufelt's.
"By 1940, we
were in pretty good shape. We were decreasing the mortgage
and increasing the cash flow. Then
came World War II. Lewis registered but
was deferred because of having young
children and a farm. The government
pressed farmers to produce milk
for powdered milk. Dry milk products brought
less than the price of feed. There
was a rebellion in the air. Neighbors
talked about holding their milk,
dumping it on the ground. Lewis was much
against the strike. He thought it
was sinful and wasteful. We made butter.
Then we tried to haul the milk early.
It was terrible. We went to the milk
plant with the children. The milk
was dumped by our neighbors on the ground.
The government granted an increase.
We profited from the efforts of our
neighbors. We were strike breakers.
I feel discomfort with the name."
Credit was a wonderful thing for us. We made arrangement to
pay off the property and accomplished
it. Finally with the mortgage paid, the
hours Lewis drove the teams with
the lines around his waist were cut down
because we could accumulate tools.
I never kept a diary, I was to busy
In the early
50's, Lewis' father died at the age of 84. Lewis' health
began to fail in the 60's. "One
day he came in the house and told me to call
the auctioneer. I thought he must
be worse that we realized. He died in 1969.
I stayed on the farm until 1977
and then sold it."
Mrs. Zufelt started
a new kind of life when she moved to Pulaski, the
life of a volunteer. She became
active in many organizations and put in some
traveling time visiting family members
to put in her daily walking time around the village and
expects to return to her volunteer
job as soon as the doctor says she can,
following recent surgery.
a woman whose generosity is offered in the sincere form
of honesty and kindness, a woman
whose language is laced with wit and
practical wisdom, a woman whose
roots and history insist she maintain a sense
of loyalty to her community and
family, and a woman who shares that special
gift of enjoying every moment of
living with those she comes in contact.
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