The Letters of Mary Bond
Mendon: The Early Years
John G. Sheret
The author of this article recently acquired twenty-six letters written
by Mary Bond,
granddaughter of Mendon pioneer,Zebedee Bond, to her cousin, Rhoda Thomas,
who lived in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. The letters covering a thirteen-year
period from March of 1898 until September, 1911, provide a detailed account
of the everyday life of a young woman living and working in rural Mendon
in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century.
Mary Bond was born June 19, 1871, on the Mendon Centre Road farm of her
parents, Theodore and Barbara Senn Bond. The farmhouse, at the northeast
corner of the intersection of that road with Clover Street, was demolished
many years ago and a newer house now stands on the site.
Map of Mendon showing Bond family farms
Her father, Theodore, was the son of Zebedee Bond who, in 1806, came
at the age of ten to Mendon from New Jersey with his parents, Abner and
Mary Elizabeth Bond. Abner purchased and cleared land for a farm at what
is now the intersection of Chamberlain Road and the Cheese Factory Road.
On January 14, 1819, Zebedee married Amy Gardner of Pittsford and settled
on a small farm at the intersection of the present Quaker Meetinghouse
and Semmel Roads.
Zebedee and Amy Bond, grandparents of Mary Bond
fron 1877 History of Monroe County by W.H. McIntosh
On April 1, 1828, Zebedee sold that farm and moved his family to a house
he had built that still stands on the north side of the Mendon Centre
Road just west of Clover Street.
Lithograph of Farm of Zebedee Bond
fron 1877 History of Monroe County by W.H. McIntosh
Upon the death of Zebedee Bond on January 16, 1884, his older brother,
Lyman Bond, purchased the farm and the proceeds were divided among the
heirs named in Zebedee's will.
The first letter written by Mary Bond to her cousin is dated March 3,
1898, and was mailed from the Post Office located in the General Store
at Mendon Centre. Established in 1841, this Post Office operated until
January 1, 1902, when the Rural Free Delivery mail service was inaugurated
in Mendon and the office was moved to Terry's Hotel in Rochester Junction.
In this letter, as in many subsequent letters, Mary mentions the never-ending
work and that "there is always something else to do." In another letter
she states that "I get so tired sometimes I feel as if I would like to
run anywhere I could rest." Included in her "job description" were such
tasks as, on cold winter mornings, rising before the rest of the family
and starting fires in two wood stoves. Mary also cared for the chickens
and the pigs located in the cobblestone hog barn behind the house and
every year planted and tended a large vegetable garden as well as assisting
the men of the family in the field work. Her mother was in failing health
due to cancer and required much of Mary's attention. In one letter she
writes that her mother cannot walk and is so heavy that it takes two or
three people to move her from her bed to her chair.
In February, 1900, Mary's father gave her a calf to raise which she traded
with Mr. Kimball for a steer. "Mr. Kimball" was Louis Kimball who lived
on a small farm in Mendon Centre and was the descendent of another pioneer
family who had arrived in Mendon in the early 1800's. Area residents may
remember his son, Marvin, who for many years operated a truck farm bordering
Quaker Pond in Mendon Ponds Park. He sold his produce in a stand that
can still be seen on Clover Street just north of the Mendon Centre Road.
Mary bought the material to make all of her dresses and shirtwaists;
two of the letters contained swatches of dress material so that she could
show her cousin her current dressmaking project. In one letter she tells
her cousin that she had grown so fat that she cannot wear any of her old
shirtwaists. She also saves discarded clothing and in her "spare" time
makes rag rugs for the house.
Another task that fell Mary's way was the annual spring house cleaning,
a tradition that existed among housekeepers until well into the 20th Century
and possibly still exists in some areas today. In every letter with an
April date, Mary asks her cousin if she has finished her spring house
cleaning. The author of this article vividly remembers when this annual
ritual was performed by his mother and various family members every spring.
Every room in the house from cellar to attic was scrubbed. My older brother
and I were assigned the job of taking down the wooden storm windows, washing
all the windows on the outside, and then replacing them with screens.
We also had the job of carrying all of the rugs to the clothes lines in
the back yard and with a special rug beating tool removing every bit of
dirt from them. My sister assisted my mother with the interior work of
washing all the woodwork, floors, and curtains. All dishes, along with
the pots and pans, were removed from cupboards and washed before being
returned. I also remember that the huge wood-burning cook stove would
be shutdown by the time house cleaning was finished and a 4-burner kerosene
stove moved from the woodshed into the kitchen for summer cooking. A happy
moment in my mother's life occurred in the late 1930's when an electric
stove was installed in her kitchen and the older stoves ascended to stove
One job that Mary enjoyed was skimming cream from milk for churning into
butter. She stated that she could sell all the butter she made for twenty-five
cents a pound. She also had a modest income from her chickens by selling
eggs for twenty-two cents a dozen.
In one letter she wrote that her younger brother Raymond had the "grippe"
and had been out of school for two weeks, her mother had had it twice,
and her father was just getting over the illness. The doctor told her
that he "guessed they were trying to keep the bed warm." In the early
1900's doctors in Mendon received seventy-five cents for office visits
and an additional fifty cents if they had to make a house call. Over the
years covered by Mary's letters, their doctor made numerous trips to the
house to attend to different members of the family for their various ailments.
Another brother, Milton Bond, four years younger than Mary, married Cora
Webster, December 9, 1897, and the couple set up housekeeping in the two
front rooms of the house. The young couple lived there for two years before
moving in with his aunt Mrs. Lyman Bond on the farm north of his father's
Mary mentions that Cora had taken the train to Rochester to buy dishes
and other items for their own use. In 1892, the Lehigh Valley Railroad
completed the double-track main line between Geneva and Buffalo with a
single-track branch line running from Rochester Junction to the station
in downtown Rochester. In subsequent letters Mary frequently refers to
herself and other members of her family taking the train to the city,
traveling the 13.2 miles from the Junction to Rochester in less than thirty
minutes. In 1900 there were ten trains a day running to the city and local
residents used the Lehigh Valley to get to their places of employment
or to shop in downtown Rochester. In another letter she mentioned that
her father was on jury duty in Rochester and that she had to hitch up
the horse every morning to take him to the Junction and every evening
to bring him home again.
In a letter, dated May 28, 1898, Mary wrote "the men have taken a collection
to buy a large flag and that everything is red, white, and blue since
the war started." This reference is to the state of war and the severing
of diplomatic relations with Spain declared by Congress on April 25, 1898.
Proving that some things never change, we witnessed the same display of
patriotism many years later with the 9/11 terrorist situation.
All of Mary's letters to her cousin contain a reference or mention of
the weather, particularly in relation to its impact on the farm crops
during the spring planting, the summer growing or the fall harvest season.
She also mentions that at times the snow drifts were so high that her
father could barely make it across the road to the barn less than a hundred
feet from their house. Other letters tell of winter storms so severe that
the roads were impassable and the residents had to drive their sleighs
through the open spots in the fields. In another letter she describes
a violent August wind and thunder storm that uprooted five of their trees
and took roofs off barns and the cider mill in Mendon Centre.
On January 12, 1903, Mary wrote that her father, Theodore Bond, had passed
away December 29th leaving everything to her mother and that there would
be no auction. Her brother, Milton, who, as previously mentioned, lived
on his aunt's thirty-two acre farm north of their place, agreed to continue
working the home place as he had done with his father in the past.
Mary's mother, Barbara, died June 26, 1905, naming Mary as executrix
of her estate. On Thursday, November 30, 1905, she placed the following
ad in the Honeoye Falls Times:
FARM FOR SALE
The farm of the late Theodore Bond,
Three and one-half miles north of
Honeoye Falls, is offered for sale.
Sandy soil, place watered with springs
and well; 20 acres of timber. Buildings in
fair condition. Address: Mary N. Bond,
Rochester Junction, NY., R.F.D.
Upon the sale of the farm in early April, 1906, to John Yorks of the
town of Avon, Livingston County, Mary and her younger brother, Raymond,
rented a ten-room house on the Mendon-Ionia Road, south of the hamlet
of Mendon. In her letters from Mendon the reader can detect a feeling
of relief and that she is enjoying her new life as she describes the fruit
trees and large garden on the property. She states that she and Raymond
are not homesick at all and she only misses the telephone and Rural Free
Delivery. However, she writes that the neighbors across the street have
a telephone that she is allowed to use and that she likes to walk to the
hamlet to pick up her mail at the Post Office and to go to church.
A telephone had been installed in the Bond farmhouse after the Mendon
Center Telephone Company was organized on May 4, 1900. Cedar trees from
the woods of the Bond farm were used for telephone poles to carry the
wires down Mendon Centre Road.
In a letter to her cousin, dated December 30, 1906, Mary writes that
she "has to do something next year to earn some money." By early March,
1907, she found a job in Rochester "taking care of an old lady" for which
she received her board and $5.00 a week. She was allowed one afternoon
and evening off each week and every other Sunday. In subsequent letters
she mentions that she likes the city better than she thought she would
and that she especially enjoys the flowers in Highland Park.
In many of her letters over the years she tells her cousin that she would
like to come to Illinois to visit her but that she does not have sufficient
money for the trip. However, her fortunes must have improved because in
a June 19, 1911, letter she tells her cousin to expect her and another
cousin, Fannie Senn, to arrive in Illinois by train the following week.
In the final letter of this series, written September 18, 1911, she mentions
that she expects to leave for the "sunny south" the first week in October
with no further explanation about this trip.
Mary Bond never married and apparently lived in Rochester for the remainder
of her life. A death notice in the August 12, 1943, Honeoye Falls Times,
states that she died suddenly at her home in Rondell Park, Rochester,
the previous Saturday. Funeral services were held in the Honeoye Falls
Methodist Church and burial was in the Honeoye Falls Cemetery.
Shortly before his death on December 4, 1958, John Yorks sold the farm
to James A. Clark who used the farmhouse as a summer residence and leased
the land to a neighboring farmer. Mr. Clark eventually built a new house
on the steep hill at the western edge of the farm and became a full-time
resident of the town of Mendon. The house, built by Zebedee Bond over
170 years ago and greatly altered from its original classic Greek Revival
style still stands, and is today used as a rental property.
© 2004, John G. Sheret
Sources of Information
Letters of Mary Bond
Honeoye Falls Times
1877 History of Monroe County by W. H. McIntosh
A History of the Farm by W. E. Morrison, Sr.
Illustrations supplied by the author.