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Josephine Griswold Capron


Beth B. Flory

When Josephine Griswold Capron wrote The Old Mill in 1936, she was 64 and had been teaching school in Naples since 1913. She retired at the mandatory age of 70 and died ten years later, in 1952.

Always interested in family and local history, she was a member of the Ontario County Historical Society and was Naples correspondent for the Ontario County Times in the 1930s and '40s.

Her family traces its ancestry to Thomas Holcomb who came to Boston from England in 1635 on the Mary and John, sister ship of the Mayflower. Governor John Winthrop of Boston was a relative. Frederick Winthrop bought 300 acres from the Phelps and Gorham Purchase and sent his grandson, Roderick Holcomb to look over the country. He married a fellow immigrant and the couple settled on Canandaigua Lake, building a home on the north side of what is now Cooks' Point. Two of Roderick's older brothers, Alfred and Perry, came to Naples, followed by five more siblings. About 1826 the parents came out to visit and stayed, building a house in Naples.

Josephine Capron's great grandfather was William Marks, a successful Naples businessman and undertaker who is still remembered for his courageous work for the Underground Railroad, transporting escaping slaves in his hearse over the hills to Honeoye and the Pittses' home, the next stop.

William Marks's daughter Ida married Captain Edgar Griswold (1836 - 1913) who served in Co. G. of the 148th Regular New York Volunteer Infantry and, although wounded in 1864, survived. Josephine was their daughter.

All of the Caprons in this country are believed to be descended from Banfield Capron (1660 - 1752) who came to New England from England, married three times and had 12 children.

A grandson, Elisha, Jr. (1754 - 1845) of Norton, Massachusetts, enlisted in the 7th Regiment in 1780 and served until 1783. He was wounded at King's Ferry, New York, and received a pension of $8.00 a month. His great grandson was William Lewis Capron. Born in 1871, he married Josephine Griswold, living in Springwater, Wayland, and finally Naples. He was a commercial traveler, a "solicitor and collector" for International Harvester.

On January 22, 1913, 42-year-old William, who had been ill, went by train to Auburn for an important business meeting. On the return trip he felt faint. Unable to open a window, he went into the baggage car, opened a side door and fell from the moving train. It stopped immediately and William was soon found but he was already dead.

He left four children who ranged in age from one year to eight: Robert, Alice, Mary and Blanche. Suddenly widowed, Josephine was fortunate in having parents nearby to help her. The family moved in with them, into the house by the mill which she knew so well.

Josephine also had a profession and ten years of teaching experience behind her: before her marriage she had taught civics and geography in Canandaigua.

Her son Robert died of pneumonia in 1918 when he was six. Alice, for many years a librarian at Sampson Naval Base in Geneva, died in 1988. Blanche, a school nurse in Bath, lived until 1997, and Mary, who taught in Warsaw and in retirement came back to Naples, died in January of l998. And so ended her branch of the family.

None of the sisters married. They were lively independent women who early had their own cars and enjoyed touring and camping with each other and friends.

Naples residents who were Josephine's students recall that she was a stern and strict 7th grade teacher. Apparently she suppressed—or had she lost—her humorous and fun-loving side which comes across so clearly in The Old Mill.

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