Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Clark and Fordyce Families of Ensenore and Scipio

Summer in central New York means many things, but one of the most popular is the yard sale. On a sunny Saturday morning you are bound to find one in your travels.
Every few years I pick my way along the annual “Route 90 Sale” looking for things I don’t need. I am always browsing for old books, and this year I found one that lends itself to a Scipio story - Little Loo by W. Clark Russell.

A prolific writer, Russell authored a total of 57 novels; collections of short stories and newspaper articles; a volume of historical essays; popular biographies and a collection of verses.

When I opened the front cover of Little Loo, I found that it had been a Christmas gift in 1900. The flyleaf is inscribed “Presented by Grandma Clark to Alpha Clark December 25, 1900.”
I thought those names were familiar, so I checked into the historical family records I have for Scipio and there it was. Grandma Clark was actually Joanna Malvina Johnson, wife of George Clark who built and ran Ensenore House. Her son Frank and his wife Emma had two girls – Alpha and Louisa.
In June of 1863, George Clark registered for military service in the 24th Congressional District. The register shows he was a 22-year-old unmarried carpenter. He was mustered in to the 1st Engineers (or Serrell’s Engineers) on February 16, 1863. As a Private, his pay would have been $13 a month. By September of 1863, he married Malvina.
In the spring of 1865, Mr. and Mrs. Clark bought the Hiram Close farm and took up their residence in the town of Scipio about one mile west of Ensenore where they resided for over 40 years.  
In the 1900 census, I found that George and Malvina were still living in Scipio, right next door to his son Frank, his wife Emma and their children Alpha and Louisa. In fact, after George Clark died in 1906, Malvina moved in with Frank’s family until her own death in 1916.

You may already know that George Clark built a four-story hotel and named it the Ensenore Glen House, which opened in June of 1875. It had 40 rooms, a huge hotel for our area. Each room had access to porches that encircled the hotel, with a large observatory at the top. In 1875, it cost two dollars a day to stay (about $40 in 2015 dollars) and another fifty cents for meals. The Ensenore House had a black walnut staircase and a large barroom with an L-shaped bar.
Captain Clark had 10 boats, supplies for croquet and other games, and of course you could get a ride on his steamer The Owasco, which was later renamed The Ensenore. The featured attraction that drew people from far and wide was a walk up through the Glen to the falls. Clark had constructed stairs for the trail, some of wood and some carved right out of the native stone, which ended with a downward view of 437 feet – almost one and a half times the length of a football field!

The recipient of Little Loo, Alpha Clark, married to Dr. Benjamin Fordyce, a well-known and respected man of Scipio who spent over two years accumulating the cobblestones from Lake Ontario to build their home in 1843; it still stands just west of Scipio Center.

I can't wait to see what treasures I find in this year's yard sales!

Looking For A Few Good Stories

If you look at the post just below this one, you'll understand my title. I would love to apply for the Pomeroy Foundation Grant and commemorate one or more of the good old legends of Scipio. If I knew the approximate location of the "Tracy and the Bear" escapade (see a previous blog entry), I would apply right now - maybe you can help. Or perhaps, you know another story? Let me know!

Know Any Good Stories About Scipio?

Displaying image002.jpg

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Scipio Coverlet Story

Cup on the Bus: A day and a half trip: I went back to Coalmont, Pennsylvania (population 105) early in March; my so help me last trip up the long hill that is town, from the D...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The United States Constitution

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” 

These words, written 227 years ago, are the Preamble to our Constitution. This is Constitution Week, September 17 – 23, celebrating the signing of this important document. Celebrating its 227th birthday, the U.S. Constitution is the oldest constitution still in active use in the world today and is the basic document of our republic, which protects the individual liberties of all citizens through written law. Fly your flag with pride!

Friday, August 1, 2014

John Foster Dulles and Vietnam

Sixty years ago today in 1954, the Geneva Accords divided Vietnam into two countries at the 17th parallel. It also freed Vietnam from many years of colonial rule by the French and formally recognized Communist control of North Vietnam.
This year we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. I am old enough to remember when our country did not call it a “war.” In the year 1968 alone, over 14,000 Americans died in Vietnam; a good many of them during and due to the Tet offensive. There were several individuals from our area who participated in this war, by choice or by draft.
During a two-year transition period created by the above-mentioned Geneva Accords, Vietnamese civilians could relocate to either North or South Vietnam, and the military was to return to their place of origin. Elections were scheduled to be held in 1956, but that did not occur.
The United States and South Vietnam never actually signed the Accords, and although the USA did formally acknowledge them they did not promise to obey them. Our Secretary of State John Foster Dulles did not recognize, shake hands or speak to the Chinese and Viet Minh delegates. Edward Moise has written a 10-part account of the events leading up to, surrounding, and ending the Vietnam War that can be found at
It is a thoughtful account of the many factors at play during this period of our history and I learned much of the background and details that I hadn't considered or known of before.
Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was married to Janet Pomeroy Avery of Auburn, NY, and is buried in Arlington Cemetery, whose website has a very complete biography of his life at Their son, John F. W. Dulles, was born in Auburn in 1913. It is indeed a small world after all.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Comstock's History in its Entirety

Over the winter I took on what proved to be quite a task - that of building an every name index for
SOME OF THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE TOWN OF SCIPIO CAYUGA COUNTY NEW YORK by Austin B. Comstock. It was only 28 pages long, so I thought it would be an easy task. 
Silly me! 
If Excel is to be trusted, I indexed a total of 446 surnames. Kudos to Mr. Comstock for writing such an extensive memory of our area. 
I have transcribed all 28 pages of his text as well,  and each page is a separate entry on this blog. The index is also provided in the "What's New" section on with a link back to the correct page of my blog for each surname. Many thanks to the Cayuga County Site Coordinator for this and for all his hard work in bringing information to us about our past.
The job of a municipal historian is to preserve and interpret the past through research, public education and promotion of local tourism as it relates to the history of the municipality. I believe the ordinary folks who shopped, ate, farmed and worshiped are what made it possible for our area to thrive and Mr. Comstock's History is a wealth of information on those people. I hope you enjoy reading it, and maybe find a relative or two in the pages.