Monday, August 30, 2010

Elm Tree Update

The elm comes down
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
A crew had begun taking down the large old elm on Legislative Mall today when I walked out to get some lunch.

Most of the branches had been removed. Large section so trunk were being piled on a trailer and smaller branches were being fed to a grinder as I walked past.

I did not have a chance to check it out when I left for the day, but I expect to see just a smear on the grass when I arrive in dover tomorrow.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Lo, How the Mighty are Fallen...

elm tree 1
Originally uploaded by mmahaffie
This huge old elm tree on Legislative Mall, in Dover, will be coming down this week. The tree has stood out on the mall for at least a century. That's Delaware's capitol building (Legislative Hall) in the background.

The tree's decline has been obvious to those of us who work around the mall for some time. It apparently has succumbed to bacterial leaf scorch.

A crew will take it down at some point this week. I hope to be able to watch it and say goodbye.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I Wonder: Who Will Be Her d'Entremont?

classWe dropped our eldest daughter off at Villanova University this week. She's now doing her freshman orientation and we are reorienting ourselves to a house with only one teen daughter.

The drop-off was a two day affair. We moved her into the dorm on Wednesday and came back Thursday for welcome events, meetings with advisors and other activities.

When we arrived, we were greeted by a "Welcome Class of 2014" painted onto a grassy hillside. And we had two hours to admire it as we waited in one of about six long lines of cars for our turn dropping all of her stuff at the dorm.

Freshmen at Villanova mostly live in a group of dorms at the south end of campus. There are more than 1,600 in the class of 2014 and logistically, move-in day was quite a challenge. I think the school handled  it well and the cadre of students on hand to direct traffic, check us in, and help schlep all the kids' stuff into the dorms did great work. But it was a long, tiring day.

The second day we did some dorm-room fine-tuning and heard welcome speeches from various levels of university administration. We navigated the bookstore hurricane together and eventually hugged our daughter goodbye so she could start the next chapter of her adventure.

I have to admit that I am jealous. I have been throughout the process of visiting schools, applying and choosing one. Our daughter's next four years look exciting and fun.

The whole thing has had be thinking back 30 years to when I started school. I remember my first day in Foss Hall, at Colby College. I looked into a neighboring room and saw a large, bearded fellow drinking a beer and reading a comic book. He looked up reached out a fresh can of beer to me. That's when I knew I would be happy there.

That was Mark d'Entremont. He welcomed me into his group of friends and has been a pal ever since. I don't expect my daughter to find a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon anytime soon; it's not that sort of a school and times have changed. But I hope she finds her own d'Entrement, a Todd, a Katy, and a Laurellie.

I hope she finds the sort of friends I was blessed with. Friends to stretch her, challenge her and help her become the amazing young lady I have seen deep inside.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

New Branches in the Family Tree

House  built 1720I have discovered another ancestral home that now serves as part of an historic site: Huguenot Street in New Paltz, New York. This is the Freer-Low House where a ninth great-grandfather, Hugo Freer, once lived.

Regular visitors to this blog will have noticed my genealogy hobby and my pride in Mahaffie family history.  I have written a few times about The Mahaffie House, now a museum in Olathe, Kansas.  It was home to my great-great-grandparents JB Mahaffie and Lucinda Henderson who were among the first settlers of that town.

But that was in the mid-1800s. Hugo Freer came to the New York colony sometime before 1677 as part of a wave of religious refugees -- Huguenots -- who had fled France, stayed for a time in Germany, and eventually came to the colonies. Hugo Freer was one of a group of twelve men (the "Duzine") who purchased land from the local Esopus tribe and received a patent to settle the town of New Paltz in the 1670s.

At the very end of his life, Hugo Freer replaced his original wood home with the stone structure that stands today. He died in 1698. The house passed through various family members and served different functions before being purchased by the Huguenot Historical Society in 1955 and made part of the Huguenot Street Historic District of New Paltz.

"My great-grandmother, of French Huguenot ancestry"
I am related to Hugo Freer through my maternal grandmother, Isabel Cooper Mahaffie, another frequent subject of this blog. Towards the end of her life, she had inventoried her home (filled with a wonderful collection of treasures and art).  Reading through that inventory the other day, I found her reference to "an especially fine small colonial covered pitcher with the dragon finial, which belonged to Joanna Freer, my great-grandmother, of French Huguenot ancestry."

That led me to renew genealogical searching along that branch of the family tree, which had been stopped at Joanna Freer and her husband, Nathan Myers.  The renewed searching led me to a new treasure trove,  the Freer-Low Family Association, which provided six more generations of family, back to Hugo Freer (who appears in some records as "Hugo Freer Patentee").

So now, allowing for possible error over more than 300 years, the generations look like this:
  1. Hugo Freer and Marie de la Haye
  2. Hugo Freer, Sr., and Maria LeRoy
  3. Simon Freer and Marytjen Vanbommell
  4. Zimeon Freer and Catrina Vanbenschoten
  5. Simeon Freer and Anna Maria DuBois
  6. Elias Freer and Arreantje Veley (Viele?)
  7. Joanna (Johanna?) Freer and Nathan Meyers
  8. Isabella Meyers and Thomas Cooper
  9. James Cooper and Honora Henry
  10. Isabel Cooper and Charles D. Mahaffie, Sr.
  11. Charles D. Mahaffie, Jr. and Judith Farrar (my parents)
And, because I keep all these records on, additional connections are made as data in other family trees is compared to data from my tree. The Freer-Low Family Association records start with Hugo the Patentee, but geni connections suggest at least another five generations back in time.

And so I am once again happily wandering among my ancestors in the near and distant past.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Representative Paragraph

Every once in a while, I like to post here a representative paragraph from a book I'm reading. Usually, it's from a favorite author and this one is no exception.

I'm just finishing the novel Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman. I've read it before. It was worth another look. here's part of why:
It is a small world. You do not have to live in it particularly long to learn that for yourself. There is a theory that, in the whole world, there are only five hundred real people (the cast, as it were; all the rest of the people in the world, the theory suggests, are extras) and what is more, they all know each other. And it's true, or true as far as it goes. In reality the world is made of thousands upon thousands of groups of about five hundred people, all of whom will spend their lives bumping into each other, trying to avoid each other, and discovering each other in the same unlikely teashop in Vancouver. There is an unavoidability to this process. It's not even coincidence. It's just the way the world works, with no regard for individuals or for propriety.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Body Language

Media Matters for America posted this video of a wanna-be Breitbart trying for some ambush video and failing. What caught my eye was the very obvious and repeated hand-to-mouth gesturing, which I understand is one of the "tells" that someone is lying.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Echoes From the Past: The Season at New London, 1909

I go on occasional kicks of historical and genealogical searching. This is part of my hobby of maintaining an extensive family tree at that encompasses my Mahaffie, Farrar, Cooper, Becker, Kelly, Bartlett, Williams, Redmond, and Harrison heritage. (To name just a few generations)

This morning, while searching among the New York Times' archives, I came across a society-page article from 1909 that likely mentions my paternal grandmother. It doesn't add anything to my genealogical knowledge, and the Isabel Cooper mentioned may not be my grandmother, but the time and place are right and the subject matter is charming in any case.

The article, Midshipmen Give a Tea at New London (PDF), is from July 18, 1909. It details the summer social scene at the Hotel Griswold, on Eastern Point near New London, Connecticut, which lies across either Long Island Sound or Block Island Sound (depending on how you look at it) from the easternmost tip of Long Island.

New York City, in the days before air conditioning, could be a lousy place to be in the summers. Those who could adjourned to beaches and mountains for much of the summer. Resorts became centers of summer social activity and newspapers reported on the comings and goings and recreational doings of society. It was, I think, somewhat like our present fascination with the personal lives of television, movie and music stars -- except much more G-rated.

In July of 1909, the midshipmen of the warship Tonopah gave an afternoon tea for the guests of the Hotel Griswold "and to a large number of those who make up the summer colony at Eastern Point." It is described as "the red letter day of the season.
The afterdack (sic) of the warships (sic) had been polished until it was as smooth as a ballroom floor and under the gaily colored awnings and flags the young people danced the afternoon away to the music of the Hotel Griswold Orchestra, while the chaperons looked on, nodding approval at the pretty picture.
Along with tea with the Navy, there were tennis tournaments and amateur theatricals. The young woman who may have been my grandmother is listed among the doubles players, paired with a Miss Van Vleck.

Isabel Cooper is also listed as portraying Mrs. Muriel Crosby in a comic opera composed by an Arthur E. Cushman to be sung in the hotel on August 6.
It is called "The Tourists" and the songs are to include only the most popular airs of the day. The first act shows the lawn of the Griswold, with Summer girls flitting about. The second shifts the players to the Prada in Cuba, and this setting gives the actors a chance to wear picturesque costumes, and the men a chance to look mildly ferocious.
The article includes a lengthy listing of who has arrived, who has taken a cottage, and which yachts are in the harbor.

And, in a nod to the latest technology, there is a paragraph of "automobile arrivals" at the hotel. There were four Packards, and one each of Mathewson, Stevens-Duryea, Columbia, Chalmer's Detroit, Stearns, Buick, Hotchkiss, Palmer-Singer, and Winton. Of this random sampling of early automobile makes, I recognize only two.

I am not certain that the "Miss Isabel Cooper" mentioned here is in fact the Isabel Ruth Cooper who later married Charles Delahunt Mahaffie, Sr. and raised Charles Junior (my father). But I think it may be.

My grandmother would have been just a month shy of 17 years old in July of 1909. She was raised in New York and may have summered in Connecticut. She was, by all accounts, a beautiful young woman, and artist and later a model.

She briefly attended Bryn Mawr, near Philadelphia, before starting a professional career as an illustrator that found her, starting at age 25, painting tropical fish and fauna as part of a series of scientific expeditions.

I can see her taking part in the summer social scene of New London in 1909; a slim, athletic young woman dancing with midshipmen, playing tennis and performing for other guests. She would have taken it all in with a detached, amused, but friendly air, storing the experience among her catalog of people and places and ways of living that molded the fascinating and broadly interested older woman that I knew, all too briefly.