Monday, October 3, 2016

Politics Past

     As the most bizarre presidential campaign ever seen by the staff here at Ellie's Ancestors painfully winds to a close, we are reminded of a time when the political process was more dignified--or perhaps not.

     We refer you to the following, which appeared in the Shortsville NY Enterprise in 1930, written by Carlos P. Osgood, an elderly, long time resident of the area who recorded his early memories in a weekly column called, "The Homestead".  The piece below details an election held in 1868 for the position of school district trustee which just happens to involve my 3rd great-grandfather Paul Worden as one of the candidates:

     The trusteeship was held for a number of years by such people as TJ McLouth, E. Peirce and Anson Lapham, a rather imposing list of names, but we find that on October 16, 1865, Edwin Watkins, colored, born a slave, was elected trustee.  The main object of being trustee was the hiring of the teachers and also handling the financial affairs of the district, which amounted in some years to as much as $60.

     Things must have drifted along smoothly until the October meeting of 1868, when there seemed to be a quite marked division of opinion as to whether Henry B. Nichols or Paul Worden would be elected for trustee.  The night was dark and the rain fell down, but I was allowed to go with my father to the meeting.  He drove the old white horse, hitched to the old-fashioned buggy with a leather top, with a leather apron in front of us.  Over in the field that now belongs to Oscar Randall, across from the schoolhouse, "Teen" Worden [brother of Paul] had built a shelter of cornstalks and also built a fire to furnish light and warmth while he was husking corn and singing something like this:

With my love on the land
And my body in the sea
And the blue waves rolling over me

     The schoolhouse was pretty well filled with people when we arrived.  Thomas J. McClouth was chosen chairman and Burrus Osgood clerk.  Mr. McLouth was a quite tall, spare built gentleman, with a large amount of dignity.  He wore a high, white beaver hat of the Henry Harrison type and a long, tall, cut-away coat.  He had been a member of the State Legislature and was active in the organization of the Republican party.

     My grandfather, Ezra Peirce, was there.  Ezra was an immense man, weighed probably two hundred  and twenty-five pounds, but was simply big and boney; a giant in strength and very vigorous.  He wore a soft, black hat and a sack coat and was decidedly a Democrat.  Grandfather had also been a member of the Legislature, so when moments later a discussion of parliamentary rules arose, a good time was had by all.

      After awhile Mr. Henry B. Nichols arose to address the meeting.  Certain young men present had been over in the field where Worden was husking corn and had shelled a few ears and put the shelled corn in their coat pockets.  It is well to state at this time the room was dimly lighted, in fact, was lighted by one tallow candle and three or four lanterns with perforated tin sides, and the light coming through these openings made the walls of the room look as though they were breaking out.

     Mr. Nichols was just getting warmed up in his oratory when a couple handsful of grape and canister or shrapnel, or maybe it was shelled corn, flew through the air, caught the orator in the face and resounded vigorously from the beaver hat of the chairman.  Then my grandfather Ezra rose and I was sitting beside him.  I had never noticed before how large he was as he waved that immense hand toward the offending youths, as he told them what would happen should any more of that corn be thrown.  Order was restored and Paul Worden was elected trustee.

     I enjoy this article, and not just because Grandpa Paul is involved.  There is so much here conjuring up images of the past, the horse pulled buggy with a leather apron for wet weather, the description of the dimly lit school room before the days of electricity, the type of song that was popular; not to mention the delightful surprise of learning that voters from my home area were open minded enough in 1865 to elect a man born into slavery to office.  

     I would bet many small town newspapers ran such columns, well worth reading.


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