Summer 1998

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Tales of Naples


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.

Old Paul B. Torrey

In 1831 a prominent Naples man, aged 38, in a drunken rage killed his little boy because he cried too much, and for this he served some time in one of the State penetentiaries. It was not a life sentence as the townsmen spoke well of him, saying it would not have happened had he been himself, for he was a gentle man and a kind father.

After his return from prison, the village children were afraid, and any of them seeing him on the street passed along the word and soon there would be a general scurry for home as none wanted to be seen by "Old Paul B. Torrey." Father has told of crawling to the far comer under his bed at the first note of alarm.

Mr. Torrey is buried in Fairview, the pioneer cemetery on the Old Square. The stone reads "Died. October 29, 1862, aged 69 years, 5 mos. 9 days." Beside his grave stands a little stone marked "Jedediah, son of Paul and Abigail Torrey. Died June 6, 1831, aged 5 years, 11 mos." No other stone marked "Torrey" is in the immediate vicinity.

Elvira Cleveland

Elvira Cleveland, daughter of Ephraim and Hannah, lies with her parents and two sisters, Jennie and Eunice, in the Fairview Cemetery. The family lot is at the far left as one enters and it is surrounded by a rusty iron fence. The gate sags and refuses to close. Elvira's stone, which is tipped forward, carries the information that she was born in 1821.

As a young girl she was in love with "Yankee" Robinson, a bright young lad from Honeoye who had asked her to marry him. Her parents would not give their consent: The young man had no independent means of support

Some years later he returned as owner of "Robinson's Circus." This was not an animal show, but was rather like the Chautauquas that came to Naples with singers, lecturers and plays. Popular and financially successful, such "circuses" were clean and entertaining. Yankee, with a diamond ring in his pocket, called at the Cleveland home to claim his bride. He scratched his initials and those of his sweetheart on a parlor window pane to prove that the stone was genuine. The happiness of the young folk was short-lived for her parents again objected and Elvira could not disobey them. Yankee, with his circus and diamond ring, departed, never to return.

Some of the older people in town remember the thin, stooped little spinster, "Old Aunt Elviry," who lived alone in the family home and who, on every Sunday evening, by storm or starlight, walked with a lantern in her hand the long mile to attend services in the Methodist Church.

By the 1940s the original windows in the parlor had long since been replaced and the initialed glass discarded.

Elvira was 85 when she died in 1906, and I heard Dr. Wilbur, who attended her in her last illness, tell that under her pillow was found a faded and much worn daguerreotype of a young man with a notation on the back that the years had blurred. To those who knew her story, it was very clear.

* * *

As tangible and enduring as any inherited possessions are the stories passed along from one generation to the next. If you venture into Fairview Cemetery on any Memorial Day you will find, under the slant of Elvira Cleveland's gravestone, a small bouquet of Forget-me-not and Bridal Wreath. — BBF

1998, Beth Bishop Flory
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