Summer 1997

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Tales of Naples


Beth Bishop Flory

In 1852 my family came to Naples, New York. Every generation has enjoyed passing along stories of local characters and events. When they reached my mother, Alice Stoddard Bishop (1890-1974), she wrote them down. Here they are, with only the slightest bit of editing by her daughter.

The Dog Census

Before the days of Rural Free Delivery, it was often necessary for tax collectors to call at the homes of folk living on the back roads of the hilly areas of western New York.

The dog census taker arrived at a small house early one fine spring morning and asked the lady of the house where her husband was. She directed him to the barn where her man had gone to slop the hog. And there he was. The hog had been fed and Ed was sitting on a nearby log.

"Dog?" he asked. "Have I got a dog? Allers put me down a dog. If I ain't got one, I'll git one."

The Methodist Church Bell

At one period in the history of Naples, the congregation of the Methodist Church voted to purchase a bell, and a committee was appointed to take care of the project. The chairman, who lived out in the country, took his commission very seriously and when the bell was finally hung in the steeple, everyone in the vicinity knew that it would be rung the following Sunday.

The morning was fine and Main Street seemed full of folks heading for church or standing around, waiting for the big moment. From "up street" came the chairman sitting up pretty straight on the front seat of his conveyance, his wife beside him and the children on the back seat, all of them dressed up and eager to hear the first ringing of the wonderful bell.

As they neared the church came the first stroke, a new and terrifying sound to the horses. They stopped so suddenly that the driver lurched forward, dropping the reins which hung loosely over the dashboard. Before he could right himself came the second boom. The horses, thoroughly frightened, broke into a gallop. By this time they were directly in front of the church where the populace was amazed and no doubt amused to see the chairman, lines recovered, trying to stand, weaving about and shouting in no Sunday tones, "Stop that damn bell! Stop that damn bell!" while his family clutched their hats and every other object within reach as they were tossed about. The sexton, unaware of the excitement, continued to ring the bell through the alloted time while the runaways raced on down the street, as long as they were within sound of that "damned bell."

Rad Sacket

Long ago in the vicinity of Naples lived Rad Sacket. He had a fiery temper and when he got really mad at someone, his threat was, "Dammit, I'll rhyme ye. " No one wanted to have this happen to himself, but it was fun if the rhyming were on the other fellow.

One hot summer day, Rad and the others were digging a roadside ditch, and after lunch from their dinner pails, they spent the remaining part of their nooning loafing under a shade tree. One fellow by the name of Sanger went to sleep. He and Rad had been having difficulties during the morning and Rad was growling about it. One of the men suggested to Rad that he rhyme the sleeper and his answer was, "By God, I will. " Rad could neither read nor write, but one of the boys agreed to take down his poem and this is it:

Here lies the body of old Ed Sanger
Whom God slew in his great anger.
Earth rejoiced and Heaven was willin'
And Hell opened wide to receive the villain.

Two sticks were fastened together in the form of a cross and stuck into the ground, poem attached, at the head of the sleeper. They all crossed the road to await developments under another tree. But the story ends here.

Another of Rad's poems was:

Seymour Sutton stole a mutton
Jim Monier stole a hog.
May not be poetry, but it's true, by God.

This must have become a general favorite as the two gentlemen mentioned here were members of prominent families and not given to thievery.

© 1997, Beth Bishop Flory
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