Thursday, November 29, 2012

Daughter & a Visitor

I have my own "Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day" going on. My daughter will be with me at the office for the next few weeks. I am hoping to have a project for her to work on next week. I haven't decided if it will be research related, or helping me sort through my office. Maybe I could have her research & write one of my upcoming blog posts!

FYI: Take Our Daughters to Work Day began in 1993 as a project to increase the self esteem of girls by exposing them to a parent's workplace. The initiative, started my Gloria Steinham & the Ms. Foundation for Women, has grown to include sons. It also encourages people to reach out to relatives such as nieces, nephews, grandchildren, & non-relatives like children in shelters. The next one is April 25, 2013.

I also had a visitor come in tonight. Mr. Ken Perry came in looking for birth records. Ken has been coming to the office  for years, & is currently researching African & Caribbean Americans who lived in Greenwich & Easton. Tonight he was looking for information on the Mayo family; Alec, Estell (nee Miles) & their children. Ken has been looking up census information on & was wondering if any of the children were born here. Unfortunately, I was only able to find Sheldon Alec Mayo (b. 4 January 1917) in the town of Greenwich.

Afterward Ken & I got chatting about African American migration. Known as the Great Migration, blacks began to leave the South in 1913 after cotton prices fell & the boll weevil decimated crops. The 1915 floods in the Mississippi River Valley just made things worse. Tack on Jim Crow Laws, & black sharecroppers had little choice. They left in vast numbers.

World War I was raging in Europe & President Wilson was trying to keep the US neutral. European immigration was down & the North needed workers. Many southern black farmers wound up in urban centers like New York City, Chicago & Detroit, taking jobs in factories. But some were recruited by northern farms to work the fields. This brought a number of blacks to our rural area. Alec & Estell Mayo left Virginia during this period & came north to work on a farm & raise their children. Another forgotten story that a historian is trying to piece back together. Ken's next stop? The Washington County Archives.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Shall We Dance Greenwich?

Last week I discussed the Union Village Academy & it's founder & first principal James I. Laurie. This post is about his sister Mary Lourie Mattoon & her connection to a movie musical.

Mary Lourie was the granddaughter of James Irvine, the 1st supervisor of the Town of Jackson, and the daughter of George Lourie, officer in the War of 1812, which is currently celebrating its bicentennial. Her other brother Thomas B. Lourie was a local farmer. In June 1846 she married missionary Stephen Mattoon & they sailed for Siam (now Thailand) that July.

Stephen was the 1st US Consul in Bangkok from 1856-1859. Then he served as pastor of the First Church of Bangkok from 1860-1866. During this time he was engaged in translating the New Testament into Siamese & did not return to the US until the completion of this project in 1866.

During her time in Siam, Mary was involved in teaching the local girls English & how to become good Christians. She gave birth to one boy, Lourie (1850) who died in infancy, & two girls, Mary (1854) & Emma (1857). The Mattoon's also adopted a Siamese girl the called Esther. The family, minus Stephen, returned home in 1864 due to Mary's (mother, not daughter) poor health.

The family lived in Ballston Spa in Saratoga County, NY for a few years until Stephen took a position in North Carolina. The Mattoon family reocrds are held at the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia.

The Mattoon's were in Siam at the same time Anna Leonowens was teacher to the Siamese Court (1862-1867). Mary Mattoon is a minor character in the King and I a musical adaptation of Mary Landon's 1944 novel Anna and the King of Siam. I love musicals & will gladly give the King and I another viewing to catch Mary Lourie Mattoon!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Education in Union Village

In the early 1830s, a Union College graduate named James Irvine Lourie came to Union Village (the present village of Greenwich) to start a private school. The venture proved a success, & in 1836 the Union Village Academy was formed with Lourie as principal.

James Lourie grew up in Jackson, & attended the Cambridge academy. In 1840, he resigned as principal & began practicing law with the Honorable Judge Charles F. Ingalls here in the village. Also in 1840 he married Mary Harriet Robinson. In 1854 he was elected to the NY State Assembly & became an ardent supporter of the Temperance Movement. In 1868 he was elected county surrogate judge. Judge Lourie died July 13, 1888.

The 1st building of the Union Village Academy stood where the Presbyterian parsonage stands. In 1849 the academy built the large brick building at 6 Academy Street.^ In 1869, the academy became part of the free public school system in Greenwich. By 1907, the building was condemned & sold to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge (IOOF). A new high school building was constructed on Gray Ave. The story goes that the Gray Ave site was decided by a vote of 277 to 276. The loosing site was on Bleeker St.* The  new high school building burnt in 1926 & had to be reconstructed.

Union Village Academy after it was sold to the IOOF

In 1850 Union Village Academy had 135 students. By 1937 the Greenwich School District had 756 students. Current enrollment is 1153 students.

Noteworthy students during the early years of the academy...
Daniel Anthony (brother of Susan B.)- governor of Kansas
Reverend James A. "Ticonderoga" Tefft- missionary to the West Coast of Africa
Chester Alan Arthur- 21st President of the US

^ Now the current home of the Village of Greenwich offices, the Greater-Greenwich Chaber of Commerce, the  Greenwich Youth Center, & the fire department. The addition to the building is now condemned & the fire department is search for a safer location.

* Much of the above information can be found in History of Secondary Education in Washington County by Roscoe L. Williams. Originally produced as a Master's thesis in 1937, it was published in 1991 by the Fort Edward Historical Association & is available at their gift shop.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Vote! (Please)

You guessed it! It's my annual "Get out the Vote" plead. & I have some rough statistics to share regarding the last presidential election.

First, let me mention the sign incident at the Susan B. Anthony Childhood House in Battenville. As I stated in a previous post on this blog, we should be very careful when trying to put words in the mouths of historical figures. It is one thing to debate about it, but their words and deeds should be viewed in the proper historical context, not superimposed upon today's political climate. I have my own ideas of what "Aunt Susan," her sister Mary, & the other suffragists would say based on my own understanding of history. My views are shared by others, & still more would disagree. Plus government employees and government agencies are not supposed to publicly favor any certain candidate. (The exception being that elected officials can endorse certain candidates as you know.)

BUT... The one thing that Susan B. Anthony would want us to do is VOTE!

In the 2008 Presidential Election between Barack Obama & John McCain 2,447 ballots were cast in the Town of Greenwich. McCain received 1,075 votes to Obama's 1,326 votes. Of the remaining 46 votes 26 were for Ralph Nader.

Using the statistics from the 2000 census, there were 4,896 residents in the Town of Greenwich. 25.9% were under the age of 18 in 2000. That means that 8 years prior there were roughly 3,628 potential voters here. That means about 1,180 people in our town did not vote. That's nearly 1/3 of the population in our town did not vote. (View results for yourself here.)

I would love to see greater voter turnout in this 2012 Presidential Election year. 100% is probably to "pie in the sky," but 75% would be amazing!

Sample Town of Greenwich ballot courtesy of the Washington County Board of Elections.

Other samples of local ballots can be found here.

Polling places can be found here.

If you are unfamiliar with all of the candidates please check out the local races in the Greenwich Journal & Salem Press or the Post-Star.