The attached article, “Van Lines” by Ellroy D. Van Dyke, is an important document that outlines the family history of the Van Dyke family from Bradford and Chemung counties. It also provides an interesting insight into the life and customs at the turn of the 20th century. The article was provided to me by Linda Mutzer, and I transcribed it into Microsoft Word for you to use on your Tri-Counties website. Linda obtained her copy from the Canton Area Historical Society, Inc. Newsletter, No. 28, Dec. 1990, and donated it to the Le Roy Heritage Museum, Le Roy, PA, in care of Matt Carl.
On a more personal note, there is a humorous story about my great-great grandfather, Oakley Lewis, on page 6, and on page 15 Ellroy recounts the very moving circumstances surrounding his baptism with his father assisting on the day before his passing.
Richard Breese Stone
“Van Lines” was written at the suggestion of my family. It is a reasonable request since I am, in our family, the last living member of my generation.
Ellroy D. Van Dyke
There was once a man named John. Not John the Baptist or John Zebedee or even Pope John, but one John Van Dyke who was born in 1752 and served In the Revolutionary War. This John died September 12, 1835, and is buried in the Ulster, Pennsylvania, Cemetery, Grave #2, Lot 106, section 5.
This information concerning the burial place of John might account for the fact that there was, for years, a hotel in Ulster with a big sign, reading “The Van Dyke House.” I was told that this hotel was owned and operated by brothers of my grandfather Davis Van Dyke.
In 1777 John married Martha Moore. I have nothing on paper to prove it, but I was told that the two met on a ship coming from the old country, she from Ireland and he from Holland. I was a1so told that her name was Mary Moore, but I have a record of her application for pension after John’s death that she signed “Martha Moore Van Dyke.” Since the New Testament tells us that Mary and Martha are sisters, why quibble over which name is correct? Since much of the above information we get from word of mouth, except for dates and places, there is a wide chance for error.
All records agree that there was a large family resulting from this marriage. Some reports give the number as eighteen and that Davis was the youngest of them all. Since Davis was born in 1797, twenty years after the marriage, he might well have been down in the list even if not the youngest. I do have John’s military record, his date of discharge, Martha’s application for pension, as well as the time and place of burial.
We know next to nothing of the life of Davis Van Dyke up to the time of his marriage to Elizabeth Watts, a sturdy lass of sixteen years and a member of a prominent family in Bradford County and elsewhere. So, Davis Van Dyke, born March 10, 1797, and Elizabeth Watts, born July 9, 1802, were married on August 4, 1818. We have no record of the place, but we do know that they finally settled on the farm now owned and operated by Scott Shedden.
There is an Interesting story that has come down. It seems that the Van Dykes were good Presbyterians (Henry Van Dyke was Presbyterian), and when Davis was about to settle in Northern Pennsylvania, the family and friends met to give him a good send-off. It was a prayer meeting in which they invoked God’s blessing upon him in his new home, giving him health and prosperity and above all else protecting him from being contaminated by the Methodists, for it was known that the Methodists predominated in that locality. That part of their prayer evidently was not answered for the records soon show the name of Davis Van Dyke as a Trustee of the East Canton Methodist Episcopal Church.
Surely there were other sons than Davis in John’s large family. We wish it were possible to pursue those trails. One, of course, would lead to Rev. Henry Van Dyke, D.D., famous and greatly loved minister, poet, and author. He was born in 1852 and died in 1933. Millions of people have read his books, have been inspired by his poems, and have sung his great hymn, “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.” It appears in the Methodist Hymnal and many other hymnals. May we suggest that on this Christmas we read again Henry’s “The Story of the Other Wise Man.” Another trail might possibly lead to another famous name, Dick Van Dyke. Henry acknowledged his ties with us; we have no record of Dick making any such claim.
When Davis Van Dyke came to Bradford County he bought the land that has proved to be home for five generations. It was said that he could have bought the land where the town of Canton now stands and the rich “Innes” flats east of town as cheaply as what he did buy, but preferred the latter because it was nearer Towanda. There was no railroad through Canton at that time. We have no record of how much land he bought, but it appears that it included the Harkness place on the West and the Savacool farm on the East. We assume that the site of the Church came from the Watts side of the family. He may also have owned farther East, since at one time he owned the Peter Morse farm. Some of this may not be correct, but it is the way I remember my young ears hearing it.
Records at this point are more available. We have records of the fifteen children born to Davis and Elizabeth. Interesting to note that although there were fifteen children, they averaged about ten years apart. Meylert was twenty-nine years younger than his oldest sister Mary. A little simple math reveals that the average age of eleven of the fifteen children was seventy years. The four we omit to get that figure are the first Elizabeth, Mahlon, Baldwin, and Eugene.
The story of the fifteen would be most interesting if we only knew more about them. Like the twelve sons of Jacob, we have only incomplete sketches of their lives, except for one or two.
1. Mary C. was born in 1819, a year after their parents’ marriage. She married a man by the name of Jesse McCane. I think they lived somewhere over Burlington way. As a small boy I remember an old gentlemen, feeble and with a white beard, visiting at our house and calling my father Uncle Mike. He was Davis McCane, Mary’s son. I am not sure whether she had any other children or not. Mary died in 1897, but I have no recollection of ever having seen her.
2. Jane, born in 1821, married George Manley and for a time lived on the Harkness farm. The few things I heard about them was that they had a big family, that George was a very mean man, that he treated his wife and family badly, and would have nothing to do with his Van Dyke in-laws. Whether the latter fact had anything to do with the stories of his meanness, I do not know. Jane died in 1860 at the age of 39.
3. Eathen, better known as Baldwin, was born in 1822 and died in 1847. I think it was said that he never married, and that is all I know about him.
4. Elizabeth C. was born in 1824. I think she died at birth.
5. Elizabeth C. the second was born in 1825 and married Rev. Richard Beach. They lived in one of the mid-west cities where Elizabeth hung out her shingle as a doctor. As I heard it, she had very little medical training but plenty of good judgment and an understanding of people. Her patients were largely wealthy, indulgent people who came to her with their internal distresses. She sobered them up, put them on a diet and gave them some harmless pills with strict instructions on how to take them and charged a generous fee. They recovered rapidly and so her fame increased. When she saw someone who she believed to be really sick, she was honest enough to tell them that they needed a specialist and sent them to a real doctor. That may account for the fact that the doctors hadn’t run her out of town. While Oscar was in California he met some of the family there.
6. John was born in 1827. He is one of the family I remember seeing. He was twenty-two years older than my father, but he looked enough like him to have been his twin. Many people couldn’t tell them apart, especially when Uncle John came to Canton and got good and drunk before Dad heard that he was there. John lived over around Wellsboro, Pennsylvania. I think he had seven children. The only one I knew was Pearl, the youngest, who married a man by the name of Milispaugh and had a son and a daughter. Her son ran a restaurant in Syracuse a number of years ago. After Millspaugh’s death she married a wealthy hardware wholesaler by the name of Plum. It was then that I came to know her. Harriett and I were entertained in their beautiful home during an annual conference in West Genesee Church in 1948. She was a beautiful woman and a most gracious hostess. From her we learned first-hand what it was like to be a child in a home with a drunken father. Liquor must have agreed with him, because he lived to be ninety years old, the last of the fifteen children to die, although there were eight in the family younger than he. He died in 1917.
7. Theresa Delphine was born in 1830 and eventually married a man named Lewis Wygant. They lived in Elmira, and I think she visited us occasionally when I was quite young. I do not remember her and am sorry not to know more about them. Unless I am all wrong, they had no children. She died in 1907 at age seventy-seven.
8. Martha M. was born in 1831 and she married Dr. Abraham Ingham. He practiced medicine in Elmira. I faintly remember her visiting us when I was a child. She died in 1902; she was seventy-one.
9. Joseph was born in 1833 and served in the cavalry during the Civil War. If my memory serves me correctly I was told that he married a widow with one child. He was a big, powerful man and after the war opened a small temperance hotel at Monroeton, a few miles west of Towanda. His business was located across the street from a rather rough saloon.
There is a story of the owner of the saloon offering to set up free drinks to the boys who would go over and rough up Jo’s place on Saturday night. I guess they really roughed it up. After the party was over Joseph wrote to his brother Elbridge inviting him to come down the following weekend for a visit. I remember Elbridge well. He was a big man of about two hundred twenty-five pounds and in his younger days mostly muscle. He came down to Monroeton, and Joseph kept him out of sight. The next Saturday night the boys across the Street wanted to pay Jo another visit. They had even more volunteers the second night.
After they had arrived they saw Eldrldge and Joseph standing by the one and only front door. They decided to leave, but found the back door barred and the windows nailed down. Then the brothers went to work, each claiming he could throw the poor fellow he had by the seat and neck farther than his brother. From the reports I heard, Jo had no more trouble from the boys across the street.
Joseph died in 1890 at the age of fifty-seven. I never heard the cause of death. It may have been caused by some war experience.
10. Sarah was born in 1837. She studied medicine and was an M.D. She married a physician. They practiced medicine in Elmira for years. They had a son, Raymond, who was a brilliant doctor and surgeon. He even erected a hospital on Madison Avenue in Elmira. The building was still standing when we lived there. Tragically, he became an alcoholic at an early age, and when he went on a binge there seemed to be but one person who could deal with him and that was his Uncle Meylert, my dad. Now and then the parents would call Dad to come and he could usually straighten him out. He died early as a result of his drinking. Sarah died in 1903 at the age of sixty-six.
11. Elbridge Gary was born in 1838 and married Clara Foster. Clara was a staunch Presbyterian and took her husband and family back into the Presbyterian fold. Elbridge served in the Civil War and fought in the battle of Antietam. He lived on the Savacool farm next to the home farm on the East. He was a veterinarian and horse trainer. He had moved to East Canton when I knew him. At that time he was also the town constable. He was proud of his badge. This big man with his stern look and official badge put the fear of the law in the heart of many a would-be offender of the law. Perhaps we need more of his kind now.
I knew Uncle Elbridge better than any of my father’s family. He had four daughters: Henrietta, a teacher who married Howard Grace; Martha, who married Harry Walter and lived many years in Canton, (their daughter is Mrs. Eleanor Darmstadt of Keuka Park and now living in Penn Van.); Della, died while she was still a young woman; and Clara Belle, who married Roger Moore and lived in North Carolina. Their son, Edwin, was owner and operator of the Moore Furniture Store in Waterloo, New York.
12. Eugene C. was born in 1840. He fought in the Civil War and was wounded in the battle of Gettysburg. It was a bullet wound in his leg that never healed. I am sure that present day medicines would have healed that running infection which, I was told, was very painful. He married Sarah Foster, a sister of Clara, Elbridge’s wife. I think they had no children. Eugene died of his wound in 1876, only thirty-six years old. For a few years he operated the general store at East Canton.
13. Mahlon was born in 1843 and died in 1852. I never knew any of the particulars of his life or the cause of his death.
14. Frances was born in 1845. She married Solomon Stone and for some time lived on the Peter Morse farm on the rise of ground a half mile east of the home farm. They finally sold the farm and joined the other members of the family living in Elmira, where Frances opened a little neighborhood grocery in her home. She was a good business woman, and her store prospered from the start, and she enlarged it from time to time. This store was at 531 West First Street in Elmira. She discovered, what is now well known, that buying in larger quantities has financial advantages. So she opened another store somewhere on Upper Lake Street and hired a manager. I have never known what Solomon did in Elmira. He may have been a clerk in his wife’s store. That is merely a guess.
They had two daughters, Evelyn and Elizabeth, better known as Bessie. They were all very devoted members of Hedding Church (now known as Christ United Methodist Church) on Church Street in Elmira. Bessie, the younger, married a fine and very talented man by the name of Robert Wagner. They had three daughters. (Elisabeth, Frances, and Marion are all still living.) Bessie died young leaving Robert with three little girls. He then married Evelyn, and she was a very devoted mother to her sister’s three daughters. In later years, Aunt Frances made periodic visits to our house, and we all were very fond of her. She was a large woman with fair complexion. She was very attractive and highly regarded. Aunt Frances died in 1927 at the age of eighty-two. Although my father was the youngest, four of his family survived him.
15. In 1849, Michael Meylert, the youngest of the fifteen, was born. He was named, we are told, for a close friend of the family. Mother and his brothers and sisters called him Meylert, which, of course, was originally a surname. The fellers called him Mike, but he always signed his name M. M. Van Dyke. (Meylert [Pat] and Maurice both have the same initials and also sign M. M. Van Dyke.)
The story of Meylert would be incomplete without a sketch of a little woman named Emma. She was my mother. Physically she was a little woman who never weighed more than 104 pounds. She never weighed that much after I knew her. Her ancestors include such familiar New England names as Haskin, Wentworth, and Webster. Mother’s maternal grandmother was Hannah Wentworth Webster.
I recall some of my grandmother’s family. There was Daniel Webster, Dennis Webster, and Aunt Melissa, of whom we were all very fond. My grandmother, Ann Marie Webster, married a man by the name of Dennis Cross. He was an engineer, and they lived out Albany way. He was my mother’s own father. There was an older brother named Oscar Cross who was drowned while only a young man. My mother said that her mother never quite became reconciled to that tragedy.
My mother never remembered her father, and I am not sure that she remembered her brother, but she did name her first-born son Oscar in his memory.
Dennis Cross died shortly after Emma’s birth, and I believe Maria Cross and her baby daughter came to Bradford County shortly after her husband’s death. That would be natural since she had brothers and a sister living around that locality. I do not know how she met Elisha Bloom or when they were married. Elisha was the only father my mother knew and he was a good one. Elisha was a widower with a daughter, Ann Bloom, who was a few years older than Mother, and they became real sisters. Ann married Oakley Lewis, a farmer living at Le Roy, Pennsylvania. I remember visiting their home. Oakley and Ann had three sons and a daughter. The three Sons went into the lumber business and became very prosperous. George Lewis, the middle son, was the brains of the corporation. I never heard of his being dishonest, but on some occasions when someone tried to put the squeeze on him or his business, the squeezer got squeezed!
There is a story about Oakley and his sons out hoeing corn. They were using some old beat-up hoes, and all the while there were four brand new hoes in the shed. Naturally the boys complained and begged to use the new hoes, but Oakley’s reply was, “No, we must wear out the old ones first.” When chore time came, Oakley leaned on his hoe and said, “George, go get the cows.” George’s reply was an emphatic, “NO!” His father was shocked at his son’s refusal. “What do you mean?” he thundered. “I mean,” replied George, “that you will go for the cows. We must wear out the old ones first.” I was told that Oakley went for the cows that night.
I remember my grandmother, Maria Bloom, as a little woman living in the house across from the East Canton Methodist Church. She was the only grandparent I ever saw. She died in 1897.
My mother was better educated than most of the housewives of that day around there. She was a student and well-informed in many things, especially the Bible. I think she could have treed many preachers in a Bible quiz. I know of one who would not have wanted to tangle with her in such a test. I did absorb some of her knowledge, a fact that came in handy many times. I said she was a small woman, but only physically.
She was a school teacher up to the time she was married. I think she said she began teaching when she was sixteen. I heard from good sources that there was no fooling around in her class room. She insisted on discipline in her school and in her home.
A dream told by Mrs. Benjamin Clark, a close friend of my mother, describes her better than anything I know. In her dream she was caught in a most frightening situation. It was dark, rain was pouring down, fierce lightning and thunder, but worst of all were hysterical people running here and there screaming that it was the end of the world. In the midst of all that Mrs. Clark dreamed that she walked into my mother’s kitchen, and there she was rolling out a batch of biscuits. She remembered screaming at Mother, “Emma, don’t you know that it is the end of the world!” Without turning from her work she calmly said, “Well, if it is the end of the world, it won’t make any difference, and if it isn’t, we’ll need the biscuits.” That dream, said Mrs. Clark, described my friend. She was my mother.
I never knew much about my father’s early years. Mother said he attended a training school held in Monroeton, near Towanda. What the nature of that training may have been I have no knowledge. I understand that not many of the people around there had gone beyond the one-room district school. Both of my parents were anxious to have their children have an education. One thing I remember about my father was that he was an avid reader. He was acquainted with the events of his day and could discuss them intelligently with others. He seemed to me to have a wide knowledge and understanding of American History.
As I remember my father, he was a large man. Most of his family, that I ever saw, were large people. He must have been about six feet tall and weighed close to 200 pounds. He was light complexioned with blue eyes, and they said that his hair was light colored before it turned gray. My impression was that he was very strong. He was a lover of horses, and horses loved him. He could take horses that would not work for others, and putting them into his team, they seemed to take pleasure in doing what he asked. I never could remember him having trouble with a horse, and he always had some good ones in the barn.
One incident I shall never forget. Father and I were in the barn when we heard a great commotion outside. Running out we saw a team and wagon with perhaps a ton and half load down back of the barn. One of the horses had balked and was able to back the other horse, wagon and all down there. I think the driver was the maddest man I ever saw. I could understand that. He asked Father if he had a team that could draw the load back into the road. Father said yes he had, but he would not do it that way. He said he thought that the horse that had had the fun of backing it all down there ought to be a good enough sport to haul it back. Whereupon the driver offered Dad the team, wagon and load if he could make that horse pull his share of drawing it back up to the road. Father said he thought that was a good offer. He went around, patted the offending steed, whispered a few kind words in his ear. Then he picked up the lines and gave a command that both horses obeyed as they drew the load back up to the road. He simply handed the owner the reins and without waiting to be thanked went back to his work in the barn. He had had his fun for the day.
It used to annoy my mother, after he had done a hard day’s work, to insist on going to the barn to curry and brush horses that had stood in the barn all day.
Father was a great worker for temperance. He had seen so much of the effects of drink that he would go to almost any length to help the fellow who was down, even to staying up all night with him. One such man who gave up drink through Father’s efforts joined our church and lent his beautiful, natural, tenor voice to the choir. When Father died, he volunteered to sing at the funeral as an expression of his appreciation.
It was the most natural thing in the world that Meylert should become interested in the attractive little school marm living across the road from the church. She had lived there since her stepfather, Elisha Bloom, had sold what later became known as the Montgomery farm, located on the road running east and west at the foot of South Mountain. That farm also adjoined the one where Ella Brown Van Dyke grew up.
One evening while Meylert was calling on Emma a severe thunderstorm delayed his leaving. When he finally left for home it was so dark, he said, that he could only keep on the muddy road by means of the distant lightning of the retreating storm. When about half way home, he stepped on something in the road that let out a terrible sound and threw him face down in the mud. As he fell he seemed to see white streaks going out from where he landed. He confessed that he was never so frightened in his life, for he had no idea what he had encountered, and he ran like mad for home. He was too excited to sleep, and as soon as it began to get light, he returned to the scene. There was plenty of evidence that the neighbor’s Chester White sow and eight white pigs had gone for a stroll and had stopped in the road for lunch. The white streaks were the fleeing white pigs following their mother’s warning.
Meylert and Emma were married on January 19, 1869. The wedding must have taken place in the bride’s home, because this was before the day of church weddings. They set up housekeeping in the family homestead where Davis and Elizabeth still lived. That was long before the day of Social Security or old age pensions. It was the young couple’s responsibility to provide for his parents and, for so doing, receive the family farm. Some of the other members of the family were not satisfied with that plan and, I understood, demanded payment for the homestead.
On October 25, 1870, my eldest sister was born and named Marion. She was a fair-haired lass, and Mother said that she had nearly her full growth by the time she was twelve. She was a brilliant student and valedictorian of her class in Canton High School. When she was very young she learned to read from her grandmother’s Bible. Grandmother sat in her chair with her Bible on her lap. Marion would stand in front of her and ask her the words. One day this little miss was reading a book of her own when it was noticed that she was holding her book wrong side up. That is the way she had learned the words.
Where she got her musical training I have no idea, but she became a very good piano and organ player. When she was about twelve she began playing the reed organ in the church. She prepared herself for the honor by going through the Methodist Hymnal from beginning to end, practicing every hymn until she felt that she could play it for church. In those days the music in small churches usually was not planned ahead. Not even the organist knew what hymn the minister might announce during the service.
I think it was in 1894 that Marion married Philip Wright. Philip was the son of Benson Wright and was an expert butter maker. For years he operated the East Canton Creamery and drew the butter to Canton to be shipped to market by train. He owned a very fine bay horse named Harry, with which he hauled the butter to town. I have heard it irked some of the farmers that they had to pay Philip $25 a month for running the creamery, taking the butter, and delivering it to the railroad station.
When Benson Wright died, Philip and Marion moved to the farm on which Philip had grown up. It was located on the road that led toward the South Mountain from East Canton. He was a good farmer and majored in Guernsey cattle. It was here that their family grew up. Theirs was a devoted Christian home. Philip was a very quiet man. It was good that it was so, for his wife was capable and willing to do the talking.
Philip and Marion had three children. Meylert Benson was born on April 8, 1897. He attended Canton High School and went to work on the home farm. When his father died he operated the farm for a number of years. He finally sold it and bought a home in Windfall and worked in a foundry in Blossburg, Pennsylvania, until he retired. Meylert, or Mike as he was always called, married Marion Zola Wilcox. It was a private wedding at the bride’s home. My brother Faye and I thought it would be fun to surprise them with our presence. We learned of the wedding on short notice, leaving no time to dress for the occasion. We went as we were, barn clothes, on the pretext of buying some seed potatoes that Marion’s father had advertised for sale. It was Christmas morning 1916. Well, we were invited in and had a grand time. Meylert and Marion Z., as she has always been affectionately known to distinguish her from Meylert’s mother, had a large and splendid family. They have established homes of their own and are a credit to the communities in which they reside. A large crowd attended Meylert and Marion’s 50th anniversary. Not only their family but many others came out of respect for this couple who had been stalwarts in the Windfall Methodist Church for years.
The Wright’s second child was Merrill, born in about 1901. She was a good student. After graduation from Canton High School she went to Syracuse University and in her second year contracted pneumonia and died. It was a terrible shock to the whole family.
Florence Wright was born October 23, 1913. She too graduated from Canton High School and then from Mansfield State Teachers College. She felt that teaching was not her best service. She then attended the University of Buffalo and became a graduated nurse. As a registered nurse she applied to the Methodist Board of Missions and through that agency went to India sponsored by the Women’s Society of Christian Service of the Western New York Methodist Conference. She is still at the Crawford Memorial Hospital in Vikarabad, DeCan, India, where, among other things, is giving wonderful service to the lepers.
My sister, Marion, died in 1942 at the age of seventy-two.
Oscar D. Van Dyke was born to Meylert and Emma on March 3, 1873. He received his name in memory of his uncle, Oscar Cross, who was his mother’s brother. For some reason they never gave him a middle name, just the initial “D” and was known as “O.D.” by the whole family.
After High School O.D. worked with his brother-in-law, Philip Wright, in the East Canton Creamery and from there took a special course in butter making and creamery management at Pennsylvania State University. He eventually had his own creamery in Le Roy, Pennsylvania, and called it the ODEE Creamery Company. He always referred to his establishment as his factory. He finally moved from Le Roy to Canton, still managing his creamery business until he was taken with erysipelas in the face, a most painful affliction. His doctor prescribed either Florida or California; he decided to go that way. In California his ability led him to become manager of a large lemon packing house.
From there he went to the Southern Sierra Power Company until his retirement. O.D. died in 1958 at age eighty-five.
Oscar Van Dyke married Ella Brown, a lovely lady from a highly respected family in the East Canton area. I attended the wedding as a small boy, and I am ashamed not to remember the date or the service. To tell the truth, all I recall is the delicious refreshments served in the family home where the wedding took place. Their son, Willard, was born in 1901, and Stanley and Maurice a few years later. I am truly embarrassed not to have more accurate knowledge of this branch of my family. O.D. went to California in 1907, and a year later, 1908, Ella and the boys followed, where each of the boys distinguished himself in his own field. Willard in education, serving in the high school level and later in a university. Stanley went into the oil business and finally hung out his shingle with “Van Dyke Oil Company.” He knew Herbert Hoover well and was a friend of the Hoover son. Stanley died at a early age. Maurice followed his father to the power company where he served until his retirement. Both Willard and Maurice live in the Laguna area of California. All three boys have families whose records would make interesting and exciting reading if we had the information.
O.D.’s insistency on detail and accuracy, that accounted for his success in later life, occasionally got him into trouble, as shown when he accused his older sister of lack of care in making his bed. One cold winter night O.D. came home after the rest of the family was in bed. Thinking this was a good time to teach his sister a lesson, he went to her room, called her from her warm bed, and held the lamp while she took his bed apart and remade it according to his instructions. As he thanked her for a good job and instructed her to make it like that in the future, she suddenly blew out his lamp, grabbed the bed clothes, dashed to her own room, slammed the door, and locked it. Thus leaving her brother in the dark with his bed clothes strewn down the hall. In spite of that, there was a strong bond of affection between the two.
Meylert Faye, always known as M. Faye, was born November 3, 1875. He was a sickly child, but by loving care and a lot of grit on his part, he became a sturdy man. He spent his years on the family farm. When his father died in 1905, Faye took over the homestead and took under his wing a very unruly kid brother sixteen years his junior. He was a good farmer and made many improvements and considerable progress in agriculture. He was a churchman of high order and was honored by the New York Central Conference of the Methodist Church by being elected four times to the Jurisdictional Conference and twice to the General Conference. My own personal testimony is that, had my father lived, he could not have been a better father to me than was this brother.
Faye married Stella Wright from Eldridgeville, Pennsylvania, an [only] cousin of Philip Wright and Ella Brown. She was a grand woman, loved and respected by all. They had four children. The first was Elizabeth, a beautiful child, who was killed at the age of twelve when lightning struck the little house on the home farm where they were living at the time. The whole community was shocked by this tragedy.
Davis was born July 14, 1909, named, of course, for his great-grandfather Davis Van Dyke. After high school he learned merchandising from Woolworth Co. and for some years ran the general store at East Canton. Davis and Myrtle set up housekeeping in the apartment over their store and lived there until they left the store and went to the apple orchard business at Minnequa, north of Canton. Under Davis’s skillful guidance this grew into a large business, and his apples found themselves in delicious pies on many tables over a wide area. Davis and Myrtle were blessed with four beautiful daughters: Nancy, Lynn, Virginia, and Susan. All married and doing fine. Space and lack of details prevents attempting the interesting stories that could be told of them. This fine couple are still living at Minnequa but have reduced their expanded business in apples.
Evelyn was born to Faye and Stella on April 21, 1914. She celebrates her birthday along with Queen Elizabeth of England. The Queen may not be aware of it, but neither does she know what she is missing by not knowing Evelyn. As a lively, growing girl she was very athletic. She once challenged me to a broad jumping contest. After I saw her first leap, I was thankful to declare her the winner. I knew I could never reach that distance. In high school she and her brother, Pat, (Pat and Peg) were a very popular pair.
Evelyn married Leslie Shedden, a very fine gentleman and a top notch farmer. After Faye retired Leslie and Evelyn took over the family farm where Leslie made marked improvements in both buildings and land.
Leslie and Evelyn have four children. Alice, who lives in California. The family visited her last year. Scott and his lovely wife, Elaine, own and operate the family farm, where he is continuing the progress begun by his father. Davis Shedden is a Diesel expert and has his own business. Leo, who lives westward. Sorry I do not have more information of the latter two. Theirs would be interesting stories also.
Evelyn remarried, to Clyde Sechrist, a delightful man to know and a craftsman in wood hard to match. They have transformed the little house on the family farm and make their home there. I have never been able to keep up with Evelyn since the day she challenged me to jump, but I think she is still working in Canton, unless she has retired. I just cannot imagine Evelyn retired. Anyway, she and Clyde have a cottage on Lake Lamoka, so we see them occasionally.
On January 25, 1916, Faye and Stella had another son. At this point I must confess one of my many sins. When Faye proudly announced this birth and that they had named him Meylert, I replied that since everyone calls Meylert Wright “Mike” we’ll just have to call this fellow “Pat.” I had no idea that I was changing the destiny of that fine boy, but for some reason the name stuck, and to this day Meylert N. Van Dyke is known as Pat. He gets much of his mail so addressed, and some of his friends don’t know that he ever had any other name. Forgive me, Pat. I just hope it doesn’t get your Social Security balled up!
Pat was a star at basketball in high school and has a reputation as a whiz at softball. Pat married Mildred Gray of West Le Roy. Mildred is a great-great-granddaughter of Daniel Webster, who was my great-uncle. Now, if you can figure that one out, you could pass New York State Regents with a high mark in any subject.
Pat and Mildred bought the Watts farm adjoining the Methodist Church on the west. That farm once belonged to Squire Watts, who was Pat’s great-great-grandfather. In spite of all those greats, this fine pair don’t appear to be the least dizzy. That’s more than I can say.
Mildred is about the finest photographer I know. It is a joy to see her well dated and catalogued array of pictures. She is also very generous in sharing them. Besides her picture-taking, she works in Canton. Pat raises beautiful sheep on the farm besides being foreman of a very busy industry in town. I should add that three families of Faye’s descendants are a very strong core of the East Canton United Methodist Church. The name Van Dyke has been actively associated with that church for at least four generations.
Pat and Mildred have three children. If traveling through Troy, Pennsylvania, be sure to stop at the Cook’s corner drug store and have Lyle or Trula Haflett fill your prescription, and, while in Troy, don’t miss “Van Dyke Jewelers” for the buying of a gift of jewelry. Terry or Mitzi will be glad to serve you. If you should get as far south as Carlyle in Pennsylvania, Ann Van Dyke Dice will be glad to help you with any mental health problem you have, and her husband will straighten out any electrical problems you have.
Florence Marie Van Dyke was born to Meylert and Emma on May 27, 1883. While she was fair of skin, unlike her sister Marion she had dark complexion. She was a good student and like her father was fond of horses. After graduating from Canton High School as salutatorian, she went to Cazenovia Seminary and again was next to the top in her class and, I am told, a very close second at that. While in Cazenovia she met a very talented medical student by the name of Edwin Kent. After his graduation from Harvard Medical College, Florence and Edwin were married in the house where all of our family were born.
I recall one incident that might have changed the flavor of the wedding at least. It was the night before the wedding. Florence was playing the piano, and I was trying to sing. At one point we heard the old plymouth rock hen, who had a brood under an A-shaped coop, let out a distress signal. My sister went dashing out to see what was the matter. I stopped to get a lantern. When I arrived my sister, bride of the next day, was sitting in front of the coop with her hand under the hen trying to comfort her. When the light from my lantern shone on the scene, a black and white skunk crawled out of the back side of the same coop.
Since both Edwin and Florence had been accepted as missionaries, they left for Korea on the day following their wedding which was on June 15, the day after Davis Van Dyke was born. After about two years in Korea the mission board transferred them to China where a severe epidemic of bubonic plaque had broken out, and they thought he could be of help, which he surely was, but at the cost of contracting t.b. While in Korea their first daughter, Emma Mary Kent, was born on April 1, 1910, and named for her two grandmothers. After going to China, Lea had a sister, born Marion Alice.
After returning to America the family took refuge in the Adirondack area in hope of Edwin regaining his health. He even set up an office in Remsen, New York, and practiced until his health gave out. He died in 1917, leaving Florence and the two little girls with little choice but to go to Cazenovia where Edwin’s mother and two brothers still lived.
We moved to Chemung in the spring of 1922. That summer Florence and the girls moved to Chemung and rented a little house near the church. That fall Nellie Boyd, Harriett’s mother, helped them days while Florence attended business school in Elmira and the girls were in school. After graduating Florence went to work in Elmira and found employment with the Thatcher Bottle Company and served there until she retired. In the meantime Emma had graduated from high school in Waverly, New York. They had moved to Elmira where Florence bought a house on Smith Street. Emma had gone to Syracuse University, and Marion had contracted t.b. and died. We are reminded that Marion, Evelyn Van Dyke, and Florence Wright were close to the same age and were very close cousins. All of us were grieved at Marion’s going.
Women doctors were not plentiful when Emma went to Syracuse Medical College. For a time she was the only girl in the class. One of the fellows from that class was practicing medicine in Canandaigua when I was living there. He remembered her well, and added that she was entirely able to take care of herself against the ribbing she took from the fellows, and that they all respected her. In those days it was not easy for a woman to find a hospital for her internship. Emma finally went to Wilkinsburg, near Pittsburg.
It was about then that the t.b. bug caught up with Emma. As a result she spent some time in the t.b. sanitarium in Gowanda, New York. When she was dismissed from the sanitarium she went to Columbia University in New York and completed what was necessary to come forth as a full-fledged psychiatrist. Still the t.b. bug hovered around. That accounts for the fact that she opened her practice in Denver, Colorado, the mile high city. There her health is fine. In addition to her private practice Emma has done some significant work with junior high school girls who become pregnant. She has had considerable recognition for her work in that important field of service. I expect she has kept record of the girls she lifted up and set on their feet headed toward fine womanhood. I am sure many rise up and call her blessed.
My sister stayed in her little home on Smith Street as long as it was well for her to live alone. She died in the Penn Yan hospital in 1967 at the age of eighty-four. Hers was a life of struggle, but she never gave up or lost her faith.
It would be expected that after more than twenty years of marriage, two fine sons and two lovely daughters, Meylert and Emma Van Dyke would expect to be past the days of diapers and runny noses, when lo on September 9, 1891, another boy arrived. If they had any feeling that this was just too much, they never shed any of it on that late comer. They did however leave the responsibility of naming the kid to his two sisters. I have asked them how they came by a combination like Ellroy DeWitt, and for the life of them they couldn’t tell. Since that was the only name I ever had, I decided to make the best of it. Of course I have been called other names that should not appear in this account.
From age six I attended the one-room district school known as the Van Fleet School. At that time there were three older boys whose delight was to make life miserable for the teacher and the smaller kids, of which I seemed to be their main target. No doubt I was partly to blame for this special attention, but night after night I went home from school with torn clothes or a black eye. There came a day when I thought I had had enough and arranged for a club that I could use if needed. Soon I thought it was needed and after school the boys’ fathers came to see mine about that son of his. I had said nothing about what had happened but willingly went to bed early where I could listen through the stovepipe hole if any visitors came.
They told of the condition their sons were in when they got home that day. Calmly Father told them that he was used to that, for his son came home that way frequently. Then he called their attention to the fact that there were three of them and that they were all older than his son. Then, in a very courteous way, said, “Good night, gentlemen. Nice of you to come,” and ushered them out. The following morning as I was leaving for school he followed me to the door and said, “Son, never start a fight. Good-bye.” Boy, did I ever love my dad about then. I had no more trouble at school.
The following year my parents paid the necessary tuition for me to attend the school at East Canton where they thought the atmosphere would be better. It was!
Our home on the farm had few of the things we deem necessities in these days, but there was one thing that was never lacking. It was love, which often warmed a house that on cold mornings would have felt pretty cold without it. There was lots of fun and plenty of music, such as it was. For our comfort in winter, Father rigged a two-seater in a closet off the kitchen; put a copper-lined boat underneath. Boy! Was that better than the little building out by the lilac bush with a Montgomery Ward catalogue hanging on the door.
There were usually six or eight pretty good horses in the barn, and with them we did the faming and with them we went to town. An acre a day between chores was a pretty good day’s plowing, and it was not always easy to hang to the plow handles and keep the furrow straight.
All the fires in the house went out at night, but Father’s last act before going to bed was to whittle a pile of shavings by the stove for a quick start for the fire in the morning:
I well remember the first automobile that came down our road. It was a buggy with a dashboard; not sure about the whip socket. There was a little motor under the seat, but this first car got stuck in front of our barn, and Dad took a horse out and pulled it over the hump. I’ll bet it was doing five miles an hour. Those things, for some reason, scared horses almost out of their harnesses. When asked why horses were afraid, for it was only a wagon coming down the road without a horse, one man replied, “I’ll bet if you met a pair of pants coining down the road without a man in them you’d be scared too.” Of course that was long before the ladies wore slacks.
On April 2, 1905, I was baptized and joined the little Methodist Church in East Canton. Since I was the only one, the minister asked my father to come with me and hold the baptismal bowl, and he stood beside me as I took my vows. The next day he came down with pneumonia and died on Thursday. On the next Sunday, the ninth of April, just one week after my baptism, my father’s funeral was held in the church. He was fifty-six years old.
In the fall of 1905 I entered the eighth grade at Canton School. The one room district school didn’t always prepare one too well for high school. I thought nothing of it then, but since, I have often thought what a nuisance it must have been to provide me with a horse and wagon five days a week to go to school. I was able to go for four years without being late or absent. Faye and I started the milking about five a.m., and then I cleaned up for breakfast. By leaving the house at eight o’clock, I could harness my horse and be on the road in time to reach Canton four miles away, put my horse in a rented barn and be in the school room by nine. At noon I went to the barn and fed the horse and after school got home in time for the milking. On Saturdays Faye and I sawed wood to keep the fires going in the two houses for the coming week.
I mention these things not because I think I had a rough time but simply to call attention to the changing times for high school people. They are just as busy today but doing different things.
In 1909 when Florence and Edwin Kent were married, his father and mother came for the wedding. They invited me to come and live with them and attend Cazenovia Seminary. They needed help on their big poultry farm, and I could work there for board and room. I had just completed my junior year at Canton High School.
That was a wonderful experience for me. It was an entirely different world. Early in my stay there I learned to dress poultry and frequently picked and drew one hundred chickens on a Saturday. For the first time I really took school seriously. My day started at four a.m. I studied until six then left to water poultry. They not only raised chickens for meat but had large coops of laying hens. They were White Wyandots, a large meaty bird, and they had a good laying strain. They laid brown eggs which they shipped to Boston, Massachusetts, which was a brown egg market. I was expected to work three and a half hours a day and all day Saturday. Frequently I dressed chickens for an hour and a half after school. Often there were school activities in the evening that I thought I couldn’t possibly miss, but I made myself be in my room by ten and study until twelve. In those days I could operate on four hours sleep a night.
Besides the ordinary things in school, they had a very good voice teacher who gave me lessons in singing. Their speech department was outstanding. From Katherine Dull I learned the fundamentals of public speech. I even did some debating. My Jonah was drawing, and I had to pass that in order to graduate. As a final examination I was to draw a dog from a picture I might copy. I had no idea how to start, so the teacher, Mrs. Taylor, got it started. As I sat helplessly looking at the thing, Anna Waring, an art major, came by and put in a few strokes. Then another art major came by and added some of her skill. When the teacher came back to see how I was doing she praised me and added a few more strokes of her own. Thus the dog matured. Strokes from the students and a few from the teacher. When done it looked good, because I hadn’t had any part in it. I passed. Mrs. Taylor wanted to give me a prize for making the most progress of anyone in her class. Alas, she was the only one in the school, I guess, who didn’t know how that pup was created. I was relieved that the prize didn’t come.
In my senior year I captained the track team and made the school record in the hammer throw. I understood that that record stood for some time and was only saved when the school became a girls’ college. Now I expect to hear that some stocky blond has broken my record.
After Cazenovia I lived a year on the farm working with Faye. In 1912 I accepted the invitation of Rev. and Mrs. Harry Allen, then pastor of Asbury Church in Solvay, to come live with them and attend Syracuse University. This I did, paying them a very small sum for board and room. It was there I became acquainted with Bill North and Harriett Boyd, both of whom were active in the church: Bill in the University and Harriett in the city. Soon after the beginning of the school year the gym instructor turned me over to Tom Keene, the long-tine track coach at the University. For him I broke no records but made some fine friendships and had a lot of fun running with the relay team.
In my sophomore year I roomed on campus and picked up what odd jobs came along. Besides, I made frequent visits to Solvay. I was taking voice with Dr. Howard Lyman and needed an accompanist for rehearsals, and Harriett Boyd did right well at that. At least I thought so.
One of the most helpful courses I took was speech, first by Dr. Hugh Massy Tilrow, head of the department. He taught the freshmen because every freshman had to take speech, and it gave him contact with so many more students than if he had only taken the ones who chose speech. Besides, he had a most competent assistant in Rev. Sherman Kennedy, with whom I studied during the second year. He was also the debate coach and was good enough to let me be on one of the debate teams. When I went into the ministry, I took some summer courses from Kennedy. He helped me a great deal.
The time came when I was out of money and was not sure that what I was getting would be of future value, so I left college and went home. I imagined that Faye could use a strong back, even if it was below a weak mind. So, in 1914, I went back to the home farm. Faye and I always did hit it off. If I had had any idea of ever going into the ministry at that time, I am sure my course would have been different.
I had still kept in touch with that accompanist in Solvay, and on November 9, 1915, Harriett Boyd and I were married by Rev. Harry Allen at the bride’s home on Herkimer Street in Syracuse. It was a private affair with only her parents, her Aunt Ollie, my mother and sister Marion, and Florence Wright. She was two, a very cute little miss, and the only one around who was there as a guest. I doubt if she remembers any more about that wedding than I do about Oscar’s and Ella’s.
After a visit to the Laughton’s in Rochester (Bess Laughton was Harriett’s sister), we came home and lived in the big house on the farm with my mother until the following Memorial Day. At that time Faye and Stella moved up to the big house, and we set up housekeeping in the little house now occupied by Clyde and Evelyn. I was still working on the farm. In the spring Harriett’s father and mother came to make their home with us. Father Boyd’s health had failed, and they needed what help we could give.
Levi Warren Boyd, Harriett’s father, was one of the old school cabinet makers. He had served in Porter’s shop in Norwich, Connecticut for twenty-six years. While there, among other fine pieces of work, he milled the interior trim for Teddy Roosevelt’s home at Oyster Bay on Long Island. He set up a little shop in back of the house and did repair work on furniture and refinishing. One could write pages on his work.
Harriett’s mother died when she was eighteen months old. She was a nurse. Harriett never remembered her. When she was about three, Warren married Nellie Ketcham, a very fine maiden lady, who took the little girl to her heart and made her a wonderful mother.
On April 2, 1918, a very important event happened in the little house. After the first warning, we phoned the doctor, and Faye sped in his car to bring the nurse, Mrs. Christine Hecker. Thank goodness he got back with her when he did, for I was frantically holding the fort alone. I had officiated on such occasions for cows, mares, and sows, but this was something else. When Dr. Davidson, who was also there when I was born, drove in, Mrs. Becker handed him a very fine baby boy. We named him Robert Wendell Van Dyke, because we liked the sound of it.
In the spring of 1919, with the help of a Canton bank, we bought the original Fitzwater farm in Beech Flats, a little community three miles southeast of Canton. The farm was stocked and tooled. We bought the cows, chickens, horses, and all. There was a small but good quality apple orchard on the place, and some of the land was good potato soil. We kept about twelve cows. We depended on the cows and chickens to keep us going and the apples and potatoes for taxes and payments on the place.
It was exactly two years to a day after Robert was born, April 2, 1920, that Helen Merrill cane to live with us on the farm. Mrs. Becker was there again. A fall on the ice a month earlier had disturbed things somewhat. Dr. Davidson took a good sweat getting her squared around and ready to face the world. He did a good job.
Around the first of the year 1922, Reverend Philip Riegel, then District Superintendent, preached one Sunday in Beech Flats. He confronted me in the aisle following the service with, “What would you say to my appointing you as pastor of a church in the Elmira District?” If he had punched me in the nose he would not have surprised me more. My reply was, “What would I do with my cows?” He twitted me about that for years.
It is a long story, but things happened fast for the next few weeks. A purchaser came for the farm late in January; we had our farm sale on February 22; and, I preached my first sermon in the Chemung Methodist Church on April 2nd. That was the way we observed Robert’s fourth birthday and Helen’s second. We then moved into the Chemung parsonage. I have often questioned God’s wisdom in calling me to the ministry, but never could I doubt the call. Every door seemed to open.
Many beautiful things happened while we lived in Chemung. Among them the most important were that on January 17, 1924, Barbara Elizabeth Van Dyke was born, and on September 18, 1925, Ellroy Boyd Van Dyke was born, both in the Packer Hospital in Sayre, Pennsylvania.
From there on my family, at least, knows the story pretty well. So I’ll not weary you any further at this time. I might at some future time jot down some of the happenings along the way.
I am sure that you will discover many errors in this account, and I am conscious of many important omissions. If any of you care to send in corrections or can fill in some of the gaps, that will be fine and greatly appreciated. Somewhere there should be a more complete record of our family than I have given here.
As for myself, I am devoutly thankful for my good health and my home to which Mrs. Frances Luerssen came five years ago and has so wonderfully filled a terrible gap.
Love, and best wishes to you all.
Ellroy D. Van Dyke
Date of Birth: September 9, 1891
Date of Death: October 19, 1984
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ellroy Van Dyke was born to Meylert and Emma Van Dyke at the homestead in East Canton on September 9, 1891.
He attended Canton High School, graduated from Cazenovia Seminary and attended Syracuse University.
He married Harriett Boyd, and they had four children.
After farming for a few years, Ellroy felt called to the active ministry in the then Methodist Church. His first appointment was to a three-point charge in Chemung, New York. It was at this time he finished his education.
Ellroy also served churches in Montour Falls, N.Y., Oakwood Ave. Methodist Church in Elmira Heights, N.Y., and in Penn Yan, N.Y. While in Penn Yan he was awarded a doctor of divinity degree from Keuka College.
Following Penn Yan, he served as District Superintendent of the then Geneva District for six years.
In 1959 Ellroy retired after serving six years at the church in Canandaigua, New York.
During his retirement years he supplied pulpits in the area, and with his son, Boyd, presented a devotional radio broadcast called “A Little Lift for Living.”
He was awarded the title of Minister Emeritus of the Penn Yan church.
On October 19, 1984 Ellroy died while living in the Bethany Retirement Home in Horseheads, New York.
1. Biographical information on Ellroy Van Dyke was provided by his niece, Evelyn Van Dyke Sechrist of Canton R.D. #1.
2. Robert Elliott (whose photo appears on page 36 of the original) says that he remembers Ellroy being in high school when he (Robert) was in elementary school.
3. This article on the Van Dyke history was originally provided courtesy of Evelyn Van Dyke Sechrist (see note 1). This copy originated from the Canton Area Historical Society, Inc. Newsletter, No. 28, Dec. 1990, which is now in the Le Roy Heritage Museum’s collection, in Le Roy, PA. Distribution and donations are courtesy of Linda Mutzer. The article was then transcribed into Microsoft Word by Richard Breese Stone Jr. Ann Bloom and Oakley Lewis are Richard’s great-great grandparents, where Ann Bloom Lewis is Ellroy’s aunt by marriage.