Tales of Naples
Alice Stoddard Bishop and Beth Bishop Flory
My family came to Naples in 1832. 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 are two, with only the slightest bit of editing by her daughter.
The Shoemaker's Child
About 1886, a letter with the postmark of a small town in Kentucky arrived addressed to the Postmaster, Naples, New York. This proved to be from a minister who enclosed a dying woman's confession to the effect that some 25 years before, while she and her husband were living in Naples, a stick which she had thrown to quiet her small stepchild had hit the little girl, resulting in her death. The stepmother feared to die with this on her conscience.
Mr. Orville LeValley, Postmaster from 1886 until 1889, showed the letter to a small group of men which included my father who was here on a visit from Kansas. They were gathered in Grandfather Stoddard's drugstore. [The building today is the Miller law office. ]
One of the group, Mr. Josiah Porter, remembered the incident well. Mr. Ira Deyo, whose cabinet shop was next door, was the village coffin maker, and he and Mr. Calvin Luther usually acted as undertakers, a much simpler task than it is today. When this little daughter of the shoemaker who had recently moved to Naples died very suddenly, the two men were called to prepare the body for burial in the old cemetery on the Square.
On the evening following the services, Mr. Porter, Mr. Luther and Mr. Deyo were talking in the cabinet shop (which was close to the shoemaker's home) and the question was raised as to the cause of the child's death. One of them recalled that as the child was lifted from the bed, her head seemed to stick to the pillow.
Becoming very concerned the three men, with appropriate tools, made the long trip to the grave, placed the coffin on the wheelbarrow and returned to the shop. They pulled down the shades and on careful examination of the child, discovered the mark of a blow at the base of the skull.
At that moment there was a noise outside at one of the rear windows and, fearing detection, two of the men immediately departed, leaving Mr. Deyo alone. It was past midnight, but he made the mile-long trip to the cemetery alone by starlight. At that time, there were no sidewalks or streetlights and little chance of meeting anyone.
The next morning the shoemaker and his wife were gone, and the three men realized that the parents had become suspicious; in attempting to see what was taking place in the shop, they had inadvertantly caused the noise which had so frightened those inside.
The men did not tell of their experience. There was no way of tracing the fugitives and after a short time they were forgotten.
The letter, received so long after all this happened, was destroyed and the whole matter dropped. Father was the last survivor of those who saw the letter and he told the story to me. He died March 23, 1935.
Part of the shoemaker's house stands today on Main Street, spared the stigma of being thought haunted by the wisdom of the men who kept their secret through the years.
Before 1900 there lived in these parts an old Negro who liked to fish and drink whiskey. He would sit for hours in his boat, jug between his knees, in the same bend of West River. When anyone paused and asked why he stayed there, he'd say it was because he liked to listen to the old bullfrogs talk and to hear them say, "Fletcher, you're drunk, Fletcher, you're drunk. "
The spot became known as "Fletcher's Pool" and is so called today by some of the oldtimers.
© 1998, Beth Bishop Flory