April 1996

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Autobiographical Sketches


Floyd Griswold Greene

Floyd Griswold Greene wrote this account of his family and his early life for his daughters.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Conclusion

Part Two

My father died when I was 5 years and nearly 4 months old. Perhaps strangely, I do not have many clear recollections of him, or of my life up to that time. But, more strangely, it seems to me, I remember him in those days much more clearly than I do my mother, who must have been with me more. I recall sitting on my father's lap in the sitting room, in a rocking chair, and his singing to me a song which had only the words, "Papa loves Floyd, and Floyd loves papa." My mother told me that my father had no sense of music and could not carry a tune at all; but he apparently made the effort. I also remember running down the street to meet him when he was coming home from the mill, and his carrying me on his shoulder on the way home. Also, I remember a checked dress with round buttons on it, and that recollection is associated with my standing out in the side yard with the dress on. In those days, boys wore dresses up to 3 years or so.

I also remember a time when my father and mother were about to drive some place, and I wandered away and they couldn't find me; but finally located me in a barn down at Pete Kreider's, several houses away, where I was interested in some farm operation that was going on in the barn. My mother said that my father was all for going away without me, but that she refused. I plainly remember being in a wagon shop near the mill, and putting my hand against a hot tire of a wagon wheel and being somewhat burned. My father stuck my hand into a half barrel of cold water that the wagon carpenter had into which to immerse the hot tires. Also, an incident which sorely tried my confidence in my father comes to mind. Outside the mill was a long iron pipe, which was to be a smoke-stack to an engine which he was installing in the mill. Some men—not my father, though he was there—got me to crawl into the pipe, and then induced a small dog to go in there, barking after me. I was very badly scared, and could not understand why my father did not assist me. I also remember my father taking me to a circus at night, carrying a lantern, in a lot across from the village school. It was in a tent, and the thing that interested me most was when a ventriloquist put a live dog into a sausage machine, and it apparently, after many howls and barks, came out at the other end of the machine as sausages.

I likewise remember when my father, mother and I would drive up to the grandfather Green farm, where there was always a cookie jar in the pantry to be raided. I have a recollection of being held on Uncle Fred Green's lap. He is the one who married Aunt Jennie Swink and later left her and went to Nebraska. She, later, married a Warner Hubbell, and is the old aunt who came to Ruth's wedding and struck up a friendship with one of Ben's uncles. The folks where she lived didn't want her to come, saying it would kill her. She told them it would kill her if she didn't come, and so she might as well come along. She had a fine time, we took her all around and she got home alive. A number of years afterward she died and is buried in the Swink lot in the cemetery at South Dansville. She was a more or less peculiar personage, of whom both my mother and I were quite fond. She and my mother were close girlhood friends. When she married Hubbell in the South Dansville Methodist Church, she wanted a horseshoe hung over the inside church door for good luck. Somebody hung it wrong side up, so that the luck would run out, but fortunately someone discovered that and changed it to right side up. However, unfortunately the horseshoe didn't help, for Aunt Jennie and Hubbell didn't live too long together, and she died in a farm house in the hill country above Arkport, where she was boarding. Your mother and I drove over to the Arkport Church for the funeral.

I have no reason to think that I was a particularly cute child. As a baby, Kate Kuder and some of the other girls liked to take me riding in my buggy, I understand, but there is no record of cute sayings or actions. I did say "poor hen," when mother had some women in for lunch and served pressed chicken; so that thereafter I was not allowed to eat at the table on similar occasions. One time I went down to Mrs. Ames', who was a real friend of mine and said, "I'm so hungry," and she took pity and gave me something to eat. One time Henry Ames and I put a dead cat in our well, but maybe that wasn't cute. By and by the water didn't taste too good and they investigated and found the cat. And another time Henry pushed me out on the mill pond in a leaky boat to try to locate a pipe which had been thrown into the pond, causing quite a bit of excitement until my father waded out into the pond and rescued me. Then, too, Henry, who was older than I, tried to teach me to swear, getting me out into a field and saying that no one could hear me there.

As I have said, I remember very little about my mother, prior to my father's last sickness. I do not recall that either she or my father ever whipped or spanked me, except for one well-deserved spanking which my mother gave me after my father's death.

My father, it seems to me, was a man of medium size, a bit sandy in appearance and had a small mustache. I have a picture in my mind of seeing him and Mr. Pealer talking together at our front gate, and the above is as he appears to me in my recollection. Uncle Hub told me that my father was a very hard worker, and was ambitious to have his business succeed. The grist mill was run by water power, the water coming down a mill race from a pond some distance above, and turning a big water wheel in the basement.

Wheat flour was ground by large stones, called mill stones, which lay flat, one above the other, with one of them turning. These stones frequently had to have the furrows in them sharpened by sharp hammers, a hard elbow-grease job of many hours. The resulting flour was dark and coarse in texture. Steam mill engines and flour mills that sifted the flour by means of linen screens were coming into use, and my father went heavily into debt to install a big steam engine, and both wheat flour and buckwheat flour mills. At that time, a great deal of buckwheat was grown in that vicinity, and the mill's buckwheat flour had a wide reputation. At one time, prior to my father's expansion of the mill, one of his brothers was with him, but whether it was Fred, Alex. or Will, I do not know. All were millers at one time or another. As, too, was Uncle Jake, Orange's father, who had a mill at Conesus. A few years ago, I found in the old mill an old stencil, used to imprint "Green Brothers," etc., on the top of flour barrels, and it is at our house now. [Alice Reed has stencil now. 7/73]

At one time when he had gone so heavily into debt for the mill improvements, my father's health began to fail. I have been told that he had acute Bright's Disease, but as to its being acute I have had my doubts, as his illness extended over many months. I remember there were things he could not eat. Finally, he had one or more convulsions. At one of those times my mother had me run for one of the Dr. Ackleys. Also, they had Dr. McNett, from Hornellsville, come up. My Uncle Theodore, who was either studying medicine at the time or had recently started to practice, came with him. In those days, the usual treatment seemed to be to "bleed" the patient; that is, to remove a quantity of blood from an arm and they did that to my father. Unquestionably it quieted him, but I suppose it was from weakness and was probably the worst thing that could have been done, as he needed all the sustenance his blood could give him.

In any event, on a Sunday morning, December 16, 1883, he died. I recall it very well. The bedroom where he lay was just off the sitting room, and I sat upon my Aunt Mary Green's lap, and she and my mother were crying. There is this about Aunt Mary. She has always seemed to be where there was trouble or tragedy in the family. She was there when my father died, she was living at the farm on the hill when my Uncle Theodore, a doctor living in Hornellsville, went up there and shot himself, she was living with Dr. Louis Green, at Honeoye, when he died there, and likewise was living there when Pierre Green and his mother both died. I am quite sure, too, that she was visiting at Hornell when Dr. Charles Green, uncle "Charlie," was hit by an auto and died the next day from a fractured skull. He had just alighted from a street car, and in crossing the street to his house failed to see an approaching auto. Aunt Mary is still alive, aged well over 90, but is in the Canandaigua Hospital (2/26/48), and presumably will pass away there. (9/26/48 She died some weeks ago. F.G.G.)

At the time when my father died it was quite the custom to defer holding the funeral longer than now, in spite of the fact that embalming was not practiced; at least in the winter the time was enlarged. So my father's funeral was not held until Thursday, though he had died on Sunday. In those days, a dead person was a somewhat gruesome sight. My father was laid out on a wide board of some sort placed upon some low object; it seems to me it was a day-bed or couch. As was usual, over his face was a cloth, kept wet with some sort of solution, and then drawn over the whole body, including the face, there was a white sheet. So that, in viewing the remains, it was necessary first, to draw down the sheet, and then to remove the wet cloth. This was done many times as friends came to pay their respects. I know that I kissed my father a number of times, until somebody suggested that it might not be a good idea, and then I was no longer permitted to do so.

Caskets, in those days, were "coffins." The foot was considerably narrower than the top, tapering gradually down; and always the coffin was covered with black heavy cloth. The funeral was held in the north room, which we always knew as the "spare room," as guests slept in there. I do not recall that there were any flowers in the room, nor do I recall flowers at other funerals when I was a small boy. In the winter time, at least, it would have been difficult to obtain them. The coffin was in the middle of the room and I remember my mother, heavily dressed and veiled in black, siting beside me. I remember nothing else about the funeral, other than that I was much impressed, as we went out of the house, by the Masons standing at attention, with their aprons and some sort of staffs, along the walk as we passed to the street and to the sleighs that awaited us. It seems to me that my uncle Will Green drove the sleigh in which my mother and I rode. There was considerable snow. We finally reached the Oak Hill cemetery, where my father's remains were buried just inside the gate, and remained there for 35 years, until, after my mother's death, I had them removed to the lot which I purchased at South Dansville, there to rest beside my mother.

The conditions which we found when my father was removed were, I think, interesting. Remember that he had lain there for 35 years, Sherman Crane, the undertaker from Hornell, who was to see to the removal, suggested that we take only a box, in which to gather up the few bones that he said would remain after so many years. But I didn't like that idea and I told him I wanted him to take a rough box of regular size, and that we would arrange in it whatever we found as nearly as possible as they had been in the coffin. Strangely, when the men had dug down to the coffin, it was found that, while the wood of the coffin, except for the bottom board, had decayed away, the bottom board was in good condition and that the heavy black cloth covering of the coffin was entirely intact, and only slightly moldy, and had settled down upon the skeleton. Seemingly the bones were complete. Also, my father's suit of clothes, aside from some mold, seemed to be about perfect as when they were put in there 35 years before. So we carefully raised everything just as it was, and placed it down into the rough box, covered the box and took it over to the prepared grave at the Rogersville cemetery—Forest Lawn. Some years ago this grave began to sink in and so I suppose that pine rough box eventually disintegrated and caved in. One thing I noticed about my father's remains was that his teeth were very white and perfect, and so I suppose I have him to thank for never having lost one of my second set of teeth up to now, when I am nearly 70 years old. Though, for that matter, I believe my mother also had all of her teeth up to her death at 69.

After the burial we returned to the Pealer house, where we lived. During the time we had lived there, Mr. Pealer had retained the use of two upstairs rooms, the southeast bedroom, which he used as a sort of office, and a small middle front room where he had some furniture, bedding, etc. He did not live there. He and his only child, Wade, lived down the street with Mr. and Mrs. Dan Eveland, Mrs. Eveland being Wade's mother's sister.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Conclusion
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