Floyd Griswold Greene wrote this account of his family and his early life for his daughters.
In due course, my mother tackled the problem of trying to straighten out my father's estate. I have explained before how, with his ambition to have an up-to-date mill, he had gone heavily in debt and then had been taken sick. It was evident from the start that there would be nothing left for my mother and me, other than the little that the law would allow for widow's exemptions. Mr. Pealer was a man of considerable experience and ability as a business man, and he consented to act as an administrator with my mother. She continued to run the mill for a time, while the estate was under settlement, and there was some profit for her and me. My share was years after, as I recall, used towards the expenses of my law school course, and I think that my mother's share went into that, too. Uncle Hub, I am quite sure, operated the mill during the time I have mentioned.
Finally, there was an auction, held both at the house and down at the mill and everything in the way of personal property, except for some furniture, clothes, dishes, etc. which were exempt, was sold for the benefit of the creditors. When my father's watch was put up, with a solid gold case, the first bid was one of $10 by my mother, and the auctioneer at once said, "Sold, so that this little boy may have it." My mother later said that some of the creditors didn't like that. When I grew up I carried the watch for many years, finally trading the thinly worn case for a new one that was gold plated. After my mother's death in 1918 I bought a new watch with money coming from her, which I now carry, though the gold has worn off parts of the case. There is an inscription inside, "F. G. G. from Mother, 1918." I still have my father's watch in the office safe.
I am a bit confused as to the sequence of events, following my father's death, and up to the marriage of my mother, on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1885, to Peter Perry Pealer—to me over the years, "Mr. Pealer" and to you girls, "Grandpa Pealer."
Just how long my mother and I stayed in the Pealer house, or whether it was right then or later that Uncle Hub and Aunt Clara moved in with us, I am not sure.
Mother and I finally moved up to Oak Hill, to live with my grandfather Griswold, and we went to Lima, to live in the big Lima Seminary building, where my mother took a course in piano teaching. She must have had an education in piano earlier, because an old catalogue of the Rogersville Union Seminary which I have seen stated that she conducted the music course there. And I think she began conducting a choir in Rogersville before my father died. And for years thereafter, until she moved to Washington, she conducted the Methodist choir in the village, both mornings and evenings on Sunday, as well as the Universalist choir Sunday afternoons, when there was service there.
Many times, for years, the Methodist choir would rehearse at our house on Friday nights, my mother playing the organ and singing alto. She had a very good voice. Also, she did a good deal in training the young men in the neighborhood in singing. All of these services were entirely gratuitous and she did these things because she enjoyed it. She organized and trained a male quartet, who rehearsed at our house. Frank Willey, Charlie Kreidler and John Wellington were members of the quartet, and each of them has told me that my mother was an excellent teacher and did much for them. The bass singer in the Methodist choir was "Bob" Canfield, an elderly man with a long, flowing beard, who was the grandfather of Hester Canfield Lander, one of our Florida crowd. The tenor was "Cam" Wood, who, following John Masterman, was, for many years, the village postmaster, and who died not many years ago, a very old man. After my mother's death I loaned her Mason and Hamlin organ, which I think grandfather Griswold gave her, to the South Dansville Methodist church for their Sunday School room; but if they still have it, it is entirely out of repair.
I do not recall just when we went to Lima, but I think we were there for all or a portion of two school years. Nor can I be sure whether I first started going to school on Oak Hill prior to going at Lima, or vice versa. Both of them were district schools, with only one teacher for all grades. I can remember walking on top of crusted snow banks in going the 1/2 mile from the farm to the schoolhouse on Oak Hill. The schoolhouse was up on the corner, next to the Grange Hall—formerly the Methodist Church which my grandfather helped build—and was operated as a school until a few years ago, when the district was consolidated with many others to form the district which, at Arkport, has a very fine building, with several hundred students. The old frame wooden building was sold to Fred Wellington and moved to his farm a mile or so south and made into a residence for his married daughter. When I went to school there the teacher was a girl or woman, and there were perhaps 20 pupils, who, as I recall it, were well behaved. But I have heard that in earlier years it was an unruly bunch of farm boys who went there and, it was then necessary to have a male teacher.
One personal event that I well remember there, and of which I have evidence to this day, is being bitten on the right wrist by a dog, which lived at the Frank Griswold house at the opposite corner from the schoolhouse. Some of the larger boys had been teasing the dog, and I felt sorry for it, and reached my hand out to pet it. It didn't appreciate my sympathy, and bit me to such an extent that I still have the scar above my wrist. Speaking of scars, I still have a very noticeable one on my right leg just above the knee, occasioned by my borrowing Uncle Hub's knife—without his knowledge—when I was a small boy, so that it cut through my pants and into my leg.
When we were living on Oak Hill after my father died, my grandfather took me in his arms and held me before the clock and asked me as to the time. I happened to hit it right and he thought me very smart. But I made the mistake of letting him have me try it another time and then I was way off. Of course, even then my grandfather Griswold was a very old man, in the middle 80s; as he was born in 1798, not too long after the Revolutionary War. He didn't do much farm work, but did chores and drove to town now and then with a gentle horse hitched to a buggy. I occasionally went with him to Canaseraga. When he was hitching up the horse he always referred to it as "Dobbin," saying, "Whoa, Dobbin." "Back, Dobbin," etc. My grandfather walked with a distinct limp, having cut one knee with a draw shave when a young man in such a way that he had a stiff knee. One of his jobs each afternoon was to go to the hog pen, where he had a bench and draw shave, and cut wood shavings, and get kindling wood together, to be put beside the kitchen stove, with which he started the fire the following morning.
He sat much of the time in a rocking chair in the sitting room—the long room—doing "plain and fancy sitting," as a woman recently put it on a radio program. He had a jack knife which he frequently opened by pressing the point into the arm of the chair; so that at one particular place there was a deep hole in the chair arm. I think there is a chair on Oak Hill now which shows such a hole that my grandfather made many years ago.
Both my grandfather and my grandmother were very strict old-school Methodists and when their children were young they always had morning family prayers. In my time, my grandfather said grace before each meal—an excellent custom to my mind—and each Sunday was a day to be strictly observed as the Sabbath. Dancing and cards were taboo in their books, and not much work could be done on Sunday other than the necessary chores taking care of the animals and the necessary cooking and housework. "Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it Holy," meant something to them.
In the very early days, I understand, there was a log church about a mile along the road towards South Dansville, just below Kuder's present barn, on the north side, where there is a cross road going north. But long before my time my grandfather and others had built the substantial church building at the four corners which is still there as the Grange Hall. At different times ministers who had charges in nearby villages held services there, but I cannot recall their having a resident minister. My grandfather was generally known in the neighborhood as "Uncle Hubbard." He was a very kindly, upright, honest man, of fine intelligence. I can never remember his having been angry. He believed, as have I, in his children having a good education, and sent several of them to the Rogersville Union Seminary at South Dansville. At one time, also, they left the farm and lived in Canaseraga, largely so that Will, the youngest child, could go to school there. And I have heard my mother say that she went to school at Dansville in a school held in the present King's Daughters building. My grandfather was a staunch Republican, and Mr. Pealer was an equally staunch Democrat. The two had frequent, but always friendly, political discussions. Mr. Pealer was very fond of him.