Thursday, January 28, 2010

Clam Chowder

by Rev. Jesse Halsey

The Indians made it first. Just how perfectly no one knows. They taught the white man just how perfect was that decoction. But, still, if you want the best you must still go to the sea-side Indians.

So we start for "The Neck," a reservation on the east end of Long Island, where a remnant of the Shinnecock Indian tribe persists. And after much persuasion obtain the culinary services of Mary Emma (Bunn), and our objective is half accomplished. For Mary Emma has a son, one Charles, the tribal head, who knows the ways of ducks and geese, of the winds and waters and the tides, also the lands beneath the waters. He can find fish, oysters, and clams for to make chowder one must have clams.

Captain John Smith, by 1616, had learned their use from the Indians. "You shall scarce find any bay or shallow shore, or cove or sand, where you may not take "clampes" . . . at your pleasure. It is more difficult to find them today, but Chief Charles knows where and how. Give him your commission through his mother--and within four hours the "clampes" will be delivered. If you are a stranger and show sufficient interest, he may take you with him--for a consideration.

Caption on back of photograph reads: "This is an excellent photo of the full blood type of the Shinnecock Indian. The man is Charles Somer Bunn, who at the time of this photo in 1909, was the best known guide among the Shinnecock Indians. Sportsmen from all over hired the services of Charlie Bunn and followed him to the haunts of the black duck, on the marshes situated on the edges of Shinnecock Bay. He bears a striking resemblance to the Indians of the Northwest coast. While conducting research in 1937, I stayed in the home of Charles Bunn. His mother, Mary Emma Bunn, like her son, exhibited all of the physical traits of the full blood Indian. Indian physical types, such as Charles Bunn, are exceedingly rare among the Shinnecocks of today. His passing was lamented by many who had come to know him."
And if you get the chance, go with him. Take old clothes or a bathing suit. Wear shoes that won't be hurt by water, and ride in his wheezing auto to Cold Springs or at Sebonac [on the eastern slope of the Shinnecock Hills]. Go, if you get the chance and catch your own, or at least watch him do it.

There are two varieties of clams (and many of chowder). Soft clams and hard clams, they are called. Soft clams grow in the mud along shore and are dug at low tide. They are sometimes hidden a foot deep but have a neck long enough to reach the surface. As the tide recedes you can see them spit. Undermine them carefully or you will break their shells and fill them with grit. On Cape Cod soft clams are used in chowder and milk is added at the last. But that is another story: for we are on Long Island. Let me add that "Quahogs" is the Cape name for hard clams. I have never heard that name outside of New England. In Labrador, "Cocks" and "Hens" are the designations for soft clams, but that too is purely local usage.

On Long Island, a hard clam is a round clam, and a round clam is a hard clam. Both words are descriptive, for the shells are round and they are hard. There is no fear of breaking them, they grow under water and at low tide, you wade in, sometimes up to your arm pits, to rake them off the bottom. Occasionally they are found among the stones; more often, hidden an inch or so down in the sand or mud. You use an Eagle clawed rake on a six foot handle and scrape around until you find them. Not so easy as it sounds, so it is better to go with Chief Bunn, if he will take you. It is rather hopeless to try it alone, for chowder clams are big, big like the palm of your hand. "They grow best," so Mary Emma says (and she should know for it is an Indian tradition of centuries growth), "they grew best for chowder off Cow Neck Point 'eastard' of Sebonac Gut."

Leaving the car at West Neck Landing, your guide will take you a mile down the harbor in his leaky boat, and them outside through the "gut" into Peconic Bay. He has planned to arrive on a falling tide. The flats are just beginning to show. In the offing you may see a couple of stately yachts at anchor. The names you ask of Charles? He will tell you. You find out they have familiar names to you for the newspapers mention them and their owners. If the Chief is feeling good, he will also tell you things the papers won't print about the yachts, their owners, and the golf club, and "the Hills." Where his ancestors hunted, the four hundred now drive their golf balls, with the Indian boys for caddies. If Chief Charles gets started he will tell you more than news or gossip. He has been to the Carlisle and other Indian schools; he has ideas. He will quote something from the Epistle of James about the "howling hills." Likely, he will not talk at all.

The boat is pulled up on the flat. You wade out in water knee deep and begin to scratch the bottom with your eagle armed rake and at length until you hit a nest. One, then another. Sometimes it takes an hour to find half a dozen. Then again, you may have a run of luck and get a peck in "next to no time." The Chief will not take you to the best ground, but you will come away in a reasonable time with a "mess."

Back in town Mary Emma has a hot wood wife--"Nothing like that for a squaw's cookin'," she affirms. Note the care with which she lays out the big clams. (The little ones are rejected--they will serve other purposes than chowder.) For a clam is mostly muscle, and these old veterans with fifteen winters behind them can hold on like grim death. "Let them set a while, they'll open up easier." Reassured, I suppose, and responding to the warmth of the kitchen, the big bi-valves relax their tension. Then deftly and swiftly the old Indian slips in a knife at the corner of the shell where there is a slight bevel. With a quick turn of the hand she empties the shell of its contents, cutting the muscle loose, and the meat falling kerplunk into the wooden chopping bowl. "Save the juice, that's the best part." "Not so fat as they might be . . . shell pretty black, must have come out of the mud." "Law, that Charles. He knows I like them out of the sand."

From the iron pot on the stove comes a fragrant whiff of frying bacon. "Couldn't get no salt pork. What we comin' to? Just bacon, not so good." But it smells good as cross-sections of onions are added, they curl into brown ribbons. And the aroma takes on new fragrance. The old woman latches tight the dining room door and opens a window.

"Some folks don't like onions. I do. You can't make chowder without onions, but you must hide 'em."

The clams--a baker's dozen or more--are chopped with an old fashioned chopping knife. (Mary Emma's has a whale bone handle. Her husband made it at sea some sixty years ago.) Then into the hot-fried-bacon-onion they go, and the sizzling stops. Water, "a quart or so" is added and the kettle goes to the back of the stove, there to simmer for an indefinite period, "the longer the better," says the expert.

It sounds simple, but though you watch a dozen times, you may not catch it for the real tricks are not divulged. No good cook tells all; nor could she tell, if she would.

As if to look at the weather vane or to prognosticate for rain, the Old Indian shuffles in her carpet slippers toward the garden, with her cane knocking down a weed here and there. Watch carefully out of the corner of your eye, for she snips a bit of "yarb," be it thyme or marjoram or sage, and hides it in her apron. Sooner or later it finds its way into the simmering iron pot. That is the secret. It can't be told, but in her recipe books.

"'Mixed with brains!' my dear old mother would say," says Mary Em.

A bay leaf from the cupboard, half a pinch of clove, some white pepper. Pepper and salt go in--sparingly, but repeatedly, until the whole is seasoned "to taste." (Mary's taste, which presently shall be yours.)

Forty minutes before serving, after that indefinite period of "setting back and simmering," a half dozen beautifully sliced potatoes are added. Shinnecock is in the midst of the finest potato country on the Eastern seaboard and this variety will not cook away into starch. A big can of tomatoes goes in or "use fresh ones if you can get them." Then a thirty minutes fire boiling--water enough added to keep from burning--and you have Class Chowder--an emulsion of Pelecypodem deliciousness.

Any experiment repeated and repeated will give you the clue. Better engage Mary Emma and enjoy the product of her art. I once asked her to let me put her recipe in print. She gave it. It was as ordinary as could be, in black and white. She simply can't tell how--but she can do it, every time. No, it is never quite twice alike. Always a little different and each time a little better than the last.

Mary Emma reminds me of a great professor I knew. For thirty years his students, inspired by his lectures, have been urging a book. But he once confided to me that his lectures change. So long as he is growing why should he publish, and when he has stopped growing (inconceivable to me) they won't be worth publishing! Most generally, however, he simply says, with a twinkle in his eye, "If I'd publish everyone would know what I know, and then no one would come to my classes."

So this is not an exact recipe. Far from it. Mary Emma's chowder can't be imitated and no clams grow (in spite of Captain John Smith) like those on Sebonac Beach off Cow Neck Point to east'ard of the Old Gut.

Photo credit: The East Hampton Library, Long Island Collection. 

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Lake Placid Season Busy

Golf Players Work Hard and Many Parties Climb Whiteface and Marcy
Special to The New York Times
August 2, 1908, Sunday
Resort and Fashion Section

LAKE PLACID, N.Y., Aug. 1. -- In addition to the events arranged by the Lake Placid Yacht Club, which are being carried out in their proper order, the young people at the different hotels are all actively engaged with entertainments and outings of their own devising.

One of the outings in which the young people at the Stevens House found much pleasure was a launch ride and super at Camp Swastika on Sunset Straits, in which those taking part were Miss Anna Cozzens, Miss Phyllis Verity, Miss Shannon, Miss Helen Isham, Ralph Viall, John McGraw, and Paul and Hubert Stevens. Early in the week Mrs. Stevens, wife of George A. Stevens, the proprietor of the hotel entertained at dinner Pof. and Mrs. John Hopkins, Mrs. Hopkins's sister, Miss J.C. Pyrerr, Mrs. J. Williston Wright, and Hubert Stevens.

The sixty-eighth birthday of Dr. J. Williston Wright was made the occasion of a jolly little party at Mrs. Steven's camp Swastika on Thursday.

Among the guests at the Ruisseaumont Hotel tennis has been perhaps the most popular pastime this week, and several interesting matches and one-day tournaments have taken place. Upton Sinclair, who is a great lover of the game and is spending the Summer at one of the camps near the Ruisseaumont, was a a player in one of the best of these.

Lake Placid Campers Busy

Mountain Climbing, Auto Parties and Fishing Expeditions Take Up the Time
Special to The New York Times
July 12 1908, Sunday
Resort and Fashion Section

LAKE PLACID, N.Y., July 11. -- With house parties, boating parties, mountain parties, luncheons, and other jolly events the guests at the different hotels have been amusing themselves in the cool, invigorating atmosphere of the mountains during the past week.

A party of young people making the ascent of Mount Whitney included Miss Phyllis Verity, Miss Anna Cozzens, Miss Alice Dike, Miss Helen Isham, Ralph Viall, John McGraw, Clarence Dike, Robert Isham, William Greenough, William Halleck, and Allan Hardie.

Mr. and Mrs. H.S. Brath, Miss Betton, Miss Ames, and John Auchincloss make up a party of young people from New York recently arrived who are now at the Auchincloss camp on Moose Island.

Tales of My Father's

by Rev. Jesse Halsey

Better even than the reading was the story evening hour. 'Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere' was no more attractive (except for versification) than were a dozen oft repeated tales of my Father's.

The favorite one was of how our great grandfather (his name was Jesse) on hearing of the Battle of Lexington, took his one horse farm wagon, pulled out the king bolt and left the rear wheels and body behind when he hitched his horse to the tow front wheels on which he had rigged a seat. On this, he and and his brother sat perched while they drove to Sag Harbor. They joined others and in a whale boat rowed to New London and reached Boston in time for the Battle of Bunker Hill. Great grandfather served with Washington with the rank of Captain until Monmouth where he was wounded near Molly Pitcher's well. He was in the Valley Forge winter.

His orchard and the ruins of his house could be seen when I was a boy. Two miles from home we passed them as we drove to our most remote woodland at Camp's pond. At that pond in his time, this same great grandfather had shot deer with his army muzzle loader. Father's father had had the gun remade from a flint-lock and the barrel shortened by a foot. I have the old gun still; it is over six feet long even now.

This old veteran kept up the good fight long after the war. He used a crutch but tended his farm. One day he got into an argument with a Tory neighbor who said that never could they make a woolen cloth as good in the States as in the old Country. The argument grew hot, the crippled captain knocked the Tory down with his crutch and sat on him till noon when his son came home from the field and took him off!

This great grandfather had a brother--Henry Elias. 'Twas he who shared the bumpy ride on the springless two wheel improvisation. He--Henry Elias--had been a whaling captain and was given privateering papers during the war. When Benedict Arnold, having turned traitor, came with a British force to burn New London, Captian 'Lias was given charge of the artillery to defend the town. The fort in the harbor was abandoned but they fortified the east bank of the Thames-Groton heights. Charles Carleton Coffin in his story of the Revolution tells how Captain Halsey stood by an eighteen-pounder jammed to the muzzle with canister and old chain links. As the British came up the hill he waited until (like General Warren) he could see the whites of their eyes, then he fired his gun. Twenty fell.

Can you imagine the thrill that would give a twelve year old? I suppose this explains why I have never succeeded in becoming a pacifist. Captain 'Lias was killed at Groton Heights and his name is on the monument. When the British general came into the fort to receive the surrender, he called, 'Who commands here?' Colonel Ledyard, the senior American, answered, 'I did not but do now,' and handed his sword to the Britisher, hilt foremost. The British officer grasped the handle and rammed the blade into the vitals of the American. The wounded Americans were loaded and tied onto gun carriages and sent rolling down the hill to the river. It was known to many generations as the Massacre of Fort Griswold and in token thereof a well worn shred of a pamphlet from which my father read to me, I have among my possessions. I can believe tales. Only after twenty years when I found myself in a Scottish University, did I begin to abate my hatred of the British.

[Ed note via Dr. Samuel Warr: During WWII, Rev. Jesse Halsey headed the Bundles for Britain, long before the USA entered the war.]

Thursday, January 21, 2010

37-08 Utopia Parkway

Joseph Cornell (1903-1972)
Medici Slot-Machine, 1942
Box construction with painted glass.

Betty Benton was a good friend of my grandparents’. She and her husband, Jack, lived for many years on an adjoining duck farm in Westhampton. As a child Betty studied art with Edward Hopper, but it was her older brother, Joseph Cornell, with great support from his sister, who went on to artistic acclaim. Joseph (1903-1972) and younger brother Robert (1910-1965), who had cerebral palsy, lived most of their lives at 37-08 Utopia Parkway in Flushing with their domineering mother (d. 1966) and annually visited Betty and Jack, as well as their sister Helen Jagger, on Long Island. My father remembers both Robert and Joseph being in Westhampton. According to his biography, "Cornell shared close relationships with his siblings, and was especially attached to his brother whom he took care of as an adult."

In 1964, my grandfather, an avid collector of antique toy trains, received this letter from Robert, also a collector of trains, after a visit to Utopia Parkway:
March 7, '64

Dear Charlie,

I want to thank you for helping to make February 23rd a wonderful day for me and the rest of the folks--a day to be remembered for years on end! I don't know where to start. It was grand to see Fran, you, Betty and my new friend--Henry.

He certainly had a lot of interesting things to tel us. Gee--I wish I had a tape recorder that day!! At last we got together. Can't wait to see you again sometime in the near future. Joe Ranker--the big fellow--has been wanting to meet you for a long time.

Now let me thank you for the large Lionel dump car. It has been cleaned and oiled and looks just great. My "line" of 200 series cars grows apace.

Your trolley cars sure did "steal the show." I was glad to see Joe's "Presidents' Special" set--Never thought I'd live to see one outside of a catalog--a real one. The Trolley and the Special were all "show stoppers"--Let us say. Your items are in remarkable condition. A lot of collectors would like to be in your shoes!

Am glad you say my new shelves--on the wall over my desk--they are a wonderful place for storage and display. Thank you again very much for the Lionel car and for all you did for all of us. Hope we have another "Meeting" sometime.

Please give my very best to Fran and everyone.

My Great Aunt Helen was an early scholar of Cornell’s work, writing her masters thesis on Cornell's Medici Slot-Machine at the University of Iowa in 1978. The version archived here includes a note of approval and appreciation from Betty. In 1981, Helen published a version of this article on Cornell in Arts Magazine.

Included in this online Cornell archive at the Smithsonian is a wonderful article on Cornell by his friend and admirer, the poet, Mina Loy, who writes, “It was a long aesthetic itinerary from Brancusi’s ‘Golden Bird’ to Cornell’s ‘Aviary.’ The first is the purest abstraction I have ever seen; the latter the purest enticement of the abstract into the objective.”

Mina Loy on Joseph Cornell, 1950

From the notes on the Joseph Cornell Papers:
After Robert's death in February 1965, Cornell created a series of collages in his memory, many of which incorporated his brother's drawings of animal characters. In January 1966, he exhibited some of these collages, alongside a selection of Robert's drawings, in a show at the Robert Schoelkopf Gallery, "Robert Cornell: Memorial Exhibition."
. . .
Estate Papers provide insight on the exhibition and sale of Cornell art works after his death; the disposition of his belongings (including art work, papers, books, records, and source material); and [Elizabeth] Benton's efforts to foster and safeguard the memory and legacy of Cornell. The Robert Cornell Papers include correspondence, writings, art works, photographs, printed material, and scattered financial and personal records, documenting the full and creative life Robert led despite being confined to a wheelchair. Their inclusion in the collection suggests the family's effort to foster Robert's memory.
In addition, the poet Elizabeth Bishop was a great admirer of Cornell's work, making this painting in homage to the Medici Slot-Machine:

"E. Bishop’s Patented Slot-Machine" [watercolor and graphite on paper, 7 7/8" wide x 9 7/8" high] (Benton 77)

The catalog description of the painting notes:
The slot-machine fascinated Bishop, who wrote about it in her poem "The Soldier and the Slot Machine":

Its notions all are preconceived.
It tempts one much to tear apart The metal frame, to investigate
The workings of its metal heart,

The grindings of its metal brain,
The bite of its decisive teeth.
Oh yes, they decorate the top
But not the underneath.

Written in the 1940s, the poem was rejected by The New Yorker at the time, and finally published in Edgar Allan Poe & The Juke-Box (2006). Bishop mentioned her rapture at first seeing Joseph Cornell’s Medici Slot Machine while she was an undergraduate at Vassar in an interview with Elizabeth Spires in 1978.

Joseph Cornell papers, 1804-1986, bulk 1939-1972. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institute.

James S. Jaffe Rare Books,

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"the word hobbgoblin still chills my spine"

by Rev. Jesse Halsey

One word more about family prayers. I believe it was a bore to my brother and sisters just as it was to me. As a little boy I knelt by father's rocker and while he prayed I squinted with one eye half open out through the tiny panes of bubbled glass and saw all sorts of curious things in the trees and in the houses across the road, distorted by the window panes. Fairy stories were never read to me as a boy, but those window panes and the enforced leisure of family prayers gave me my opportunity. I pity children who have to depend on movies for their imaginative 'frame of reference.'

It's time to get back to Pilgrim's Progress. I remember it as The Book, the only one except the Bible that was available for Sunday use. It had in it a few pictures of the Holy City that I often looked at after my mother died. I was five then. Another picture, a steel engraving, showed Christians passing through the Valley of the Shadow. The very word hobbgoblin still chills my spine, to this hour. But the Valley was beset with them--hobbgoblins. I was afraid to look yet could not forbear.

Father would read by the hour. After mother died his loneliness made him my companion. Night after night he would read me to sleep. Week nights it was history, some poetry like Milton, stories from the Youth's Companion, but chiefly history. That and stories that he had heard Grandfather tell, Indians, the 'Red Coats,' whaling--no end of that from Father and all his cronies. I should say they were a dignified lot, mostly.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sailing on Lake Placid

Frederick Isham Halsey, Robert Isham, Sir Wilfred Grenfell, Charles Henry Halsey
Frederick's boat on Lake Placid, July/August 1933

Rev. Jesse Halsey, Sir Wilfred Grenfell, Charles Henry Halsey, July/August 1933

Rev. Jesse Halsey, D.D.

The Seventh Presbyterian Church of Cincinnati

Honoring the Twentieth Year of the Pastorate of Reverend Jesse Halsey, D.D. - 1933
"There is not a living man I honour more than I do Dr. Halsey. He is a man who does things, like his Master did. He has got no false pride, and his religion is one that carries that unanswerable message of the love of God for man, by the spirit that activates him in all his contacts. I have no hesitation whatever in saying I love the man dearly. He has done me lots of good, and helped me to keep my feet on the earth when I have been looking up in the sky for help in difficult circumstances. I should say of Dr. Halsey that he is the best illustration I know of the love that seeketh not her own and looks not on its own things but on the things of others."
- Sir Wilfred Grenfell, K.C.M.G., M.D.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Grip: Seldom Told Tales of Helen Isham Halsey

Helen Isham Halsey & Charles Henry II, Newfoundland, 1911

Not only was life with a clergyman "quite a change of pace for the patrician Helen," after sailing alone for twenty-one days with her two boys, ages 18 mos and 2 mos, and two teenage charges through a massive hurricane from Newfoundland to the states on board a ship transporting a black bear bound for the Boston Zoo and on which there was also a fire, it seems that my great grandmother Helen, in her third winter in Cincinnati, found herself with three children under age 5 in the midst of a nationwide epidemic of The Grip.

Helen Caroline Isham Halsey, Cincinnati, 1933

from THE "GRIP" EPIDEMIC OF THE WINTER OF 1915-1916, Louis I. DUBLIN, PH. D., Statistician, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, New York City.

Early last winter the country experienced a severe epidemic of what was popularly called 'grip.' It started in December and reached its height in the middle of January. The disease seems to have swept the entire land, moving from west to east. The duration of the epidemic in anyone locality was from six to eight weeks. It is not an exaggeration to state that in certain cities from 40 to 50 percent of the population was affected. As a result the general death rate was appreciably increased, and this made itself especially felt in a markedly higher mortality from lobar pneumonia.

The profound influence of the epidemic upon the mortality of the country may be seen in the returns already at hand from some of our largest cities . . . In 1915-1916, the number of deaths from influenza in this group of cities was increased more than sevenfold in comparison with 1914-1915. Apparently the most marked change occurred in Cincinnati [2 deaths from influenza in 1914-1915; 81 in 1915-1916], but without exception there was a marked rise in the number of deaths in every one of the cities. Pneumonia also shows a striking increase.
Helen & Charles Henry, Newfoundland, 1911

Helen's grandfather, Harry Isham, was a prominent wagon and sleigh maker, called by my great aunt "the Henry Ford of his time," who owned a factory in Plattsburgh during the second half of the 19th century. Helen's father, Frederick Isham, was educated at Columbia, graduated Columbia Law School in 1884, lived at 66 W 22nd Street while in law school, then engaged for a short time in some "entrepreneurial work" in Saranac Lake and married Laura Haynes, whom he knew from Plattsburgh.

Frederick and Laura had two children, Helen and Robert in 1890 and 1891, and the growing family soon moved to New York City where Frederick established a thriving law practice and they lived a life of comfort, luxury, and society "out in the country"--somewhere on the upper west side around 113th Street--partaking in the last vestiges of the Gilded Age with designated upstairs and downstairs maids, governesses and nannies for the children, and professional piano and singing lessons for both mother and daughter. While in New York, however, tragedy struck. Two of Helen's younger brothers, both born in the city, died from diphtheria in the mid-1890's. The family was so distraught by the boys' deaths, Helen's mother took her two surviving children back upstate and moved in with her Isham in-laws who had since given the Isham Wagon Company to their oldest son and retired to Lake Placid.

Following financial set backs resulting from the 1890's economic depression, Frederick rejoined his family and maintained homes in New York and Lake Placid to faciliate his law practice. He served two terms as mayor of Lake Placid and embarked on a lucrative business scheme developing homes for patients seeking tuberculosis treatment at the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium. (Ironically, Frederick Isham's grandson and namesake would spend the better part of a decade in and out of mental institutions following a schizophrenic break in 1932, eventually dying of tuberculosis contracted in the Cincinnati Sanitarium in 1939).

In 1905, tragedy struck the family again when Laura died in childbirth. Helen, 16 years old at the time, didn't even know her mother was pregnant. She came home from school one day and her mother was gone.

Helen Halsey on board Grenfell's schooner the George B. Cluett, 1912

Although she wanted to attend Vassar, Helen stayed in Lake Placid tending to her widower father as her younger brother went off to Exeter, Colgate, and NYU, and eventually joined his father's law firm. In 1909, Jesse Halsey was visiting his sister, Ibby, who was taking the cure at the sanatorium in Saranac Lake (Jesse's older brother Harry had died of TB, preventing Jesse from enrolling at Princeton as an undergraduate) and speaking on behalf of the Grenfell mission in the church in which Helen played the organ. As the story goes, the lights in the church went out and when they came on again, Jesse was sitting on the bench next to Helen. In much the same way, Jesse joined Sir Grenfell's organization in Newfoundland and Labrador. Upon being told that Grenfell's outpost wasn't in need of another minister, Jesse asked the Englishman what he did need. Grenfell said, "A plumber," and Jesse repied, "I'm your plumber." Jesse and Helen married in 1910 and immediately set off for missionary life in Newfoundland.

Jesse and Helen's oldest sons, Charles and Frederick, were born in hospital in St. Anthony, delivered by Dr. John Little, Jr. Later, when Jesse and Helen lived in Cincinnati the Little family resided in New Hampshire and Jesse and Helen and their children would occasionally visit.

"Tuckamne Croft" - Charles Henry & Helen I. Halsey, 1912

Each spring when the straits began to thaw in Newfoundland, Jesse traveled on dogsled from St. Anthony across the island to St. John's, then set sail in a schooner to Boston to retrieve all the supplies needed for the mission in the coming months. From the time he departed in April or May until his return several months later, Helen would not know anything about him. She didn't know where he was, when he would come back, whether a polar bear had eaten him, if he was adrift with the dogsled on an icepan, or whether he was alive or dead. He was gone for months on end and there was no communication between the two of them whatsoever. By the time Jesse made the return trek, the harbor had melted and he sailed directly into St. Anthony.

Every afternoon in the spring of 1912, awaiting Jesse's return from the annual supply trip and pregnant with Frederick, Helen held tightly onto the little boy Charles's hand and walked out onto the rocky cliffs of the peninsula to watch for the sails of ships coming back into the harbor.

The photos of Helen on board the Geo. B. Cluett, and Helen and Charles Halsey on the dogsled in Newfoundland are courtesy of Con Crowley, from a collection of photos belonging to his grandfather, Captain Ed White, Jr., who sailed on the crew of Grenfell's schooner from Newfoundland to Boston with Helen et al in October 1912.

Daughters of the American Revolution

-by Rev. Jesse Halsey, transcribed by Dr. Samuel G. Warr

After the news of the Battle of Lexington had reached Long Island, Jesse Halsey (1739-1818) and his brother, Elias Henry, with three others rowed across Long Island Sound in a row boat and joined the Continental Army.

They signed the Articles of Association in May 1775, both Elias Henry and Jesse won the rank of captain in the Revolution. Both Jesse and Elias Henry were in Colonel David Mulford's regiment. Elias Henry became a captain of a privateer in the harbor of New London. He was killed in the Battle of Groton Heights on September 6, 1781.

Another brother, David Fithian, was also a captain in the Revolution and died in 1790.

Captain Jesse fought in the Battle of Monmouth and heard the famous reprimand given by George Washington to General Charles Lee when the later had ordered retreat of the regiment he was leading. The claim has often been made, in the effort to make Washington something more than a human, that he did not use profanity at this time. Captain Jesse said that his indignation was righteous and well timed. Captain Jesse lived to be 79 years old and walked with a crutch the remainder of his life.

He had eight children, seven of whom were born previous to 1776 and the youngest child, Abigail (Ludlow), was born after the Revolution. Six girls and one boy, Charles Fithian, lived to grow up, marry, and have families. Captain Jesse and his wife, Charity White, are buried in the Watermill Cemetery. It was discovered that no stones remained to mark their graves. Seventy-five descendants, paying one dollar each, contributed to the fund, which marks their final resting place. They secured a government stone for Captain Jesse and had one made like it for Charity, and placed a fund with the cemetery association which gives them perpetual care. The fund also provided a D.A.R. marker for Captain Jesse.

A note on the progression of Jesses

Sarah Fithian and Henry Halsey had a son Jesse in 1739, who married Charity White and signed the Articles of Association in Southampton in 1775. That first Jesse Halsey was a captain in the Revolutionary War and suffered injuries at the Battle of Monmouth. Captain Jesse and Charity had seven children: Charity, Jesse, Charles Fithian, Keturah, Sarah, Hannah, and Abigail. Their son Jesse died in infancy. Jesse died in 1818. His son, Charles Fithian, and Phebe Rogers had Henry (my Great-Great-Great Grandfather, known also as Captain Harry), along with Elizabeth, Captain Jesse, Captain Edward (both of whom were whalers), Mary, and Hannah.

Captain Jesse married Mary Budd and went to sea, they had no children. Captain Jesse's older brother, Henry, builder of 49 North Main (in 1832 or 1842?) and 88 Grove Street, however, named his third son Jesse in 1845, tho that Jesse would die in 1861, a month short of his 16th birthday.

Henry's eldest son, the first Charles Henry, married Melvina Terry in 1863. (Complicating things further, Charles Henry's brother Wilmun married Melvina's sister Augusta--aka the famous Aunt Gus--and they had, in 1874, the first in a series of Aunt Ednas). Charles and Melvina had Harry in 1864, Lizbeth in 1869, Abigail Fithian in 1873, and Jesse (later Rev. Dr. Jesse and my Great Grandfather) in 1882. Melvina, known as Binn, died in 1887, when Jesse was 5. A year later, Jesse witnessed the accidental drowning of his father's brother, his beloved Uncle Wilmun, while the two were clamming together. Following those tragedies, Aunt Gus and her fourteen-year-old daughter Edna became de facto members of Great Grandfather Jesse's household; in a biographical sketch Jesse writes that he was raised by his eldest sister--18 at the time of her mother's death--and his Aunt Gussie.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fairfield Porter

Fairfield Porter
Anne, 1965

Worn paths bring home the children
From tidal water on a summer evening
Across the island below the sky
--Fairfield Porter, from The Island in the Evening, Poetry, March 1955

Jesse's doctor and good friend, Ken Wright, was an amateur painter as well as a neighbor and friend of the American painter Fairfield Porter, who lived in Southampton at 49 S. Main Street from 1949 until his death in 1975.

Fairfield Porter
Snow - South Main Street, c 1972

After Jesse's retirement from McCormick in May, 1952, and upon his return to Southampton, he painted with Wright and Porter until his death in 1954.

Jesse Halsey
49 North Main Street, c 1953

"The Southampton of 1949 was quite different from the Southampton of today, a busy beach community overrun by day-trippers and filled with year-round vacation homes. But contemporary Southampton is, if less tranquil, at least somewhat more cosmopolitan . . . Apart from its summer colony, Southampton Village was known as the seat of Southampton township, a quiet potato-farming community and home to the local hospital. It was graced with examples of early American architecture, for the area had been settled in the second half of the seventeenth century, and thanks to the mild climate and lack of an expanding economy, many of the old buildings remained just as they had always been. The permanent population consisted of farmers, shopkeepers, doctors at the regional hospital, and retired people of independent means. While picturesque, the town was also racist, xenophobic, and—perhaps because of the influence of the affluent summer colony and a small group of families whose ancestors dated back to the founding of the settlement in 1648—exceptionally class-conscious."
--Fairfield Porter: A Life in Art, Justin Spring, Yale University Press, p. 175.

Helen Halsey Haroutunian
Birch Trees, c 1954

Monday, January 11, 2010

Abbie's Account of Billy's Death

“When my brother Bill died I must have been 5 and he was 7, something like that. I was playing across the street. My sister and Louise, who was my maid, were supposed to be watching me and my brother. My mother had been away and she had brought him--he was very fond of the policeman, the private policeman the church hired to direct the traffic on Sundays, or weddings or funerals, and he’d go and out and watch him--and she bought him a little policeman’s outfit.

I was across the street playing, I don’t know what my sister was doing, but my sister and Louise were home, and he put on his suit and went out to the street to direct traffic and was hit. He went to the hospital and they operated on him all night, but he did die in the night.

The telephone call came at the Finley’s, where I was, and I was told to come home right away. And when I got home, nobody said anything to me, but my sister was very agitated and it was a feeling, you know, that something was going on, and I didn’t know what it was. And then I followed her around, and then my father came home. We had a long driveway and he came up in the garage and the turnaround and my sister ran there, and he got out of his car and he had two big bags of groceries and I don’t know what they said, but these groceries went [down on the ground] and he got in the car and he was gone.

And, I was gone with friends on the train to New York. I had no idea what had happened, but right away I was gone. I can remember to this day being on that train and also in New York, and my cousin Amanda [Ruland Talmadge, known as Toby, daughter of Aunt Edna], who may have been the granddaughter of this Amanda, met me in New York. She worked in New York and she must have been, oh, I don’t know, she started working in NY when she was 18, that seems young, but she may have been, 18 or 21, somewhere in there [she was 22], and she met me, and then we went to Southampton, and we went to her house which is right across the street diagonally from 49 N Main Street.

And I stayed there, and that night [Toby] put me to bed, and she’d never taken care of a little girl, and she thought ‘Oh, you better say your prayers.’ And I can see it as though it were yesterday. I’m five years old, I got down out of the bed, hands on knees, and I said, ‘Now I lay me down,’ and she told me this later, but I was married and much older, much older, I don’t know how many children I had by then. She told me this, but I do remember the praying, but what I said I don’t remember. ‘Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep,’ then I stopped, and she said, ‘If . . .’ and I said ‘If he hollers let him go, eeney meeney miney mo.’

And I was there at Aunt Edna’s for I don’t know how long, but then Babbie came and I lived with her and Aunt Ibby at Aunt Ibby’s house, well into the fall. And to this day, I’m just devastated by departures. But you see, I never knew. I had no idea what was going on at all.

My father had a lot of connections and knew a lot of people and one of them had his own private car and I was told that the whole family, except me, I was in Southampton already, plus the body, went in the private car on the railroad [back to Southampton]. [My father] was devastated, he was passionate about that little boy.”

Rites Are To Be Said Today For Son Of Clergyman

January 2, 1940
Cincinnati Enquirer
Frederick I. Halsey

Services for Frederick Isham Halsey, son of Rev. Jesse Halsey, will be held at the Seventh Presbyterian Church, of which his father is pastor, at 3 o'clock today. Rev. L.W. Harvison and Dr. Jesse Herrmann of Lexington will conduct the services.

Mr. Halsey, a graduate of Hughes High School, passed a year at Cornell University. Later he transferred to Wooster College, Wooster, Ohio, where he received a severe injury in a football game. This injury caused his retirement from school, and was considered the chief factor in the illness which resulted in his death Thursday.

The young man was born in Newfoundland 27 years ago, when his parents were there as members of the staff of the Grenfell Labrador Mission.

Besides his father, Mr. Halsey is survived by his mother, Mrs. Helen Isham Halsey; a brother Charles Henry Halsey, New York, and two sisters, Miss Helen Augusta Halsey, a teacher at Western College, Oxford, Ohio, and Miss Abigail Fithian Halsey, student at Hillsdale School.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Cincinnati, Winter c 1916

On the back is written, in Justine's handwriting, "Charles, Frederick, Helen."

Aunt Helen

Detail from two paintings by my beloved great aunt, a poet and painter. More on her to come.

Chalmers Place, c 1945

untitled, c 1970