Floyd Griswold Greene wrote this account of his family and his early life for his daughters.
I think it was in the Fall of 1899 that Grandpa Pealer was nominated and elected a member of the Assembly on the Democratic ticket. Ours was a strong Republican district but, largely on account of the drinking habits of the Republican nominee who had been a member during the previous year, Mr. Pealer secured a plurality of nearly 150 votes in his opponent's own town and thus was elected. It made me feel pretty big when letters began to come in directed to Hon. Peter P. Pealer. The legislature convened in January, following the election, and thus, during the week, Mr. Pealer was away from home at Albany for three months or so.
I remember that Mr. Pealer bought a new suit of clothes at Hornell for $10, so as to be properly attired for his new job. He got many letters from Albany hotels about living quarters, but in order to save some money he and Sanford W. Abbey, the Ontario County member, joined forces and took modest rooms in a boarding house.
In those days, legislators all had passes on the railroads—a pernicious practice long since done away with. But by reason thereof, Mr. Pealer generally came home over the week-ends. He enjoyed his legislative work and made a good record. He got a law enacted changing the office of Steuben County Clerk from a fee basis to a straight salary basis, thus saving the County several thousand dollars a year. Mr. Abbey had a boy, Byron, about my age. (Byron lived in Rochester for many years and died just a few years ago). He, Wade and I were taken to Albany for a week's visit during the winter. We came to Rochester and spent the night there, preparatory to going to Albany on the New York Central. We stayed at the old Livingston Hotel on Exchange St., now an office building. The main thing about that that I remember is that there was a big, square section of the office floor that was made of glass, which I very carefully walked around, fearing that it might break with me. "Better be safe than sorry."
That night we all went to a theatre in what was known as Cook's Opera House, now the Embassy, though the present building is not the one we went to, as that burned. This was the second theatre play that I had ever attended, the first being at Hornellsville, when I was visiting my Uncle Theodore, who had his driver, John McMahon, take me to the Shattuck Opera House.
When we got on the Central train to go to Albany, Mr. Pealer thought he could hardly get away with two boys on his one pass, so he had one of us sit with another legislator. I had a fine time at Albany: was introduced to Governor Hill, went to the sessions of the legislature, saw the executive mansion and greatly enjoyed the historical museum in the State Capitol, as well as another museum in the Agricultural Building. We boys patronized the Capitol elevators so much that one of the operators got sore. I also got a big kick out of eating in the various restaurants. All in all it was a big time for a small town farmer boy. We had intended to come home by way of New York City, but there was one of the biggest snow storms of all time there that had things tied completely up. So they bought us off by taking us to another theatre in Albany.
At the following election, the Republicans put up a much stronger candidate, and Mr. Pealer, though he put forth much effort in electioneering and spent all of the money he had saved the previous winter, was defeated. Subsequently, he had a position for a year or two in the state tax department, investigating past due real estate taxes, mostly on Long Island, which of course took him away from home much of the time.
During all of this time, Grandpa Pealer's farm on Gospel Hill, 2 miles east of the village, was being operated, generally, by a man who worked by the year, with such help as Mr. Pealer and we boys, supplemented by some day help, could give. To show the difference between then and now, the year man got $300 per year, plus house rent, a cow, the use of a horse, etc. , while the day hands worked for $1 per day, 10 hours a day, and brought their own lunches.
But of course the farm produce sold for much less, also. Potatoes were the main cash crop. "Hub" Wellington was one of the tenants for several years, and, later, Wilson White and Dan Kurtz. They are all dead now.
A big event for me, when I was 9 or so, was the time my uncle Charley, not yet a doctor but still working on the farm, called for me at the village district school, to go with him and Aunt Mary to Honeoye to the wedding of Uncle Louis Green to Carrie Pierpont, the father and mother of Pierre Green, he, in turn, being the father of Caroline, Mary and David. We drove by horse and buggy and it was a long trip. My main recollection of this event is that before I took one of the oranges that they passed at the lunch following the wedding I asked Orange Green if they cost anything. When he said they didn't I was quite amazed, but felt free to take one.
When I was quite young the Bill Losey house in the upper part of Main Street burned in the night. It was the first fire in the village in years, and it affected me so much that I developed insomnia, and for months I would awaken in the night and lie awake for a long time, thinking of the fire. My mother tried all kinds of remedies that were recommended,—even turning the bed at right angles, and putting glass under each post. I suppose I finally just outgrew it. Some time later the barn down at Giebel's hotel burned but that was in the day-time and it didn't bother me. While I was going to high school, but in the summer time during vacation, the Kingsley store and the house next to it burned in the night. I think those three fires were the only ones in the village for many years of any consequence. The Kingsley fire was set by an arsonist, and a law-suit grew out of it, but the accused man was acquitted. I later heard a reasonable story of how another person had set the fire.
In the fall of 1892, just following the election of Grover Cleveland as President on the Democratic ticket, an accident befell Grandpa Pealer which, doubtless, had an important effect on his subsequent life. Both Republicans and Democrats took their politics very seriously in those days, and it was customary for both parties, prior to election, to have torch-light parades, flag raisings and speeches; and for the successful party, after election, to have a big celebration with a torch-light parade, accompanied by fireworks of all sorts. At the parade following Cleveland's election, Mr. Pealer foolishly lighted a giant firecracker which he was holding in his right hand. The crowd surged against him so that he could not drop it, and it exploded in his hand, and tore the hand pretty well to pieces. At my suggestion someone was sent to Hornellsville right away to summon my Uncle Charles, who was a railroad surgeon and accustomed to crushing injuries. Others had suggested Dr. Driesbach, of Dansville, but I felt he had not had experience in that class of injuries. It looked as though the hand would have to be amputated at the wrist. The flesh was torn completely from the ends of the thumb and first three fingers so that the bones were exposed, and the palm was badly injured. But my uncle decided to try to save the hand, or as much of it as he could, and this was fortunate. The operation was held in our dining room with Grandpa Pealer sitting in a large chair and the local doctor, Dr. Ackley, giving the anesthetic. I watched the operation. Because, as the doctor said, of Mr. Pealer's very temperate habits and good health, the hand healed rapidly. Most of the thumb and first finger were amputated, as well as part of the second, but it is my recollection that he had all of the little finger, and all but the first joint of the adjoining finger. He learned to write by holding the pen between those two fingers.
Earlier in the evening, an exploding firecracker had set fire to the front of the house, or the porch; but my mother had had the foresight to have a pail of water there and put it out. Later, she said she thought she might better have failed to have the water and let the house burn, for in that event Mr. Pealer would not have had his accident. But we wouldn't have known that the fire had saved Mr. Pealer from his accident, and would have thought the burning of the house a calamity.
I think that it was in the winter of 1891-1892 that my grandfather Green—Philip—died at his home from pneumonia. He must have been well up in the 60s and was sick only a short time. Not too long thereafter, in the Spring of 1892, my uncle, Dr. Theodore Green, age 30, of Hornell, killed himself by shooting a bullet into his head with a revolver, on the Green farm. So Aunt Mary had two calamities to face within a short time. At that time Will Green was working the farm, and Uncle Theodore borrowed Will's revolver, saying that he wanted it to shoot a rat down in the barn. He was a very well liked man and had a large practice. He and Uncle Charles were in partnership, neither married at that time, and they were surgeons for the Erie RR at Hornell. I have heard two or three explanations as to the cause of his suicide but which is correct I do not know. He, as well as Grandfather Green, is buried in the cemetery at Dansville on the Green lot, where also, Aunt Hattie Green was recently buried. Aunt Mary Green, who also died recently, is, on the other hand, buried in the Dr. Louis Green lot at Honeoye.