Another gorgeous day of mild temperatures and low humidity presented itself on Wednesday, so off we went to visit a small castle in Connecticut. The last time we were there was in 1981, when the gypsy moth infestation was in full swing. 40 years ago — where does the time go? My memories are of trees stripped of their leaves and our three-year old son stomping on every single caterpillar in his path. And there were many. It was slow going…
The castle sits high above the Connecticut River. It was designed by William Gillette (1853-1937), an American stage actor who famously portrayed Sherlock Holmes in multiple productions. He lived in his castle from 1919 until his death. We couldn’t get any indoor pictures but it was a very enjoyable and informative tour. (We were required to wear masks inside the castle and the visitor center.) The man owned 15 cats and had designed many built-in features to entertain them, like a round table with wooden toys dangling off the edge.
Looking at the river we spotted the ferry crossing from Hadlyme to Chester, which brought back another memory. One day when the caterpillar crusher was a teenager he wanted to visit a certain obscure comic book store, far from home and on the other side of the river. We went by the interstate but I decided we would take a side trip on the way home to locate an ancestor’s gravestone at a cemetery on this side of the river, and that we would take the car over the river on the little ferry. It was an adventure!
Gillette also designed a short-line, narrow gauge train with three miles of track on the grounds of his 184-acre estate.
From the 1920s through the ‘30s, Gillette’s personal railroad amused visiting dignitaries from Albert Einstein to Calvin Coolidge as it carried them across bridges, trestles, and through a tunnel Gillette designed himself. The 18-inch-gauge railroad included electric- and steam-powered locomotives, two Pullman cars, and an observation car. In the 1940s the tracks and train engines were sold to Lake Compounce in Bristol. They were donated back in the 1990s and a restored passenger car is currently on display at the castle’s visitor center. ~ Connecticut History website
Tim spotted a bird high up in a tall tree and I did the best I could with the telephoto lens and no tripod! My first pictures of an indigo bunting!!! A lovely way to end the visit.
But that wasn’t the end of the outing. On our way to the castle I had spotted a picturesque body of water and Tim had spotted a place where we could pull off the road to look at it. So on the way back we stopped. There were no signs so it took a bit of investigating when I got home to identify it.
And then I spotted what looked to be part of the bark on that dying tree in the first picture above. But when I zoomed in it turned out to be a bird! The bird never moved, except to turn its head, the whole time we were there. Flitting around it were two other birds who never landed for more than a second, but I managed to get the last picture below of one of them. I was able to steady my arms by leaning on the car. With help from the good folks at the What’s This Bird? Facebook group it seems to be a fledgling barn swallow and its parents.
We stopped at our favorite restaurant on our way home again and wondered how many more of these delightful days we will have before the heat and humidity return and settle in…
Tim’s 2nd-great-grandfather, Charles Munson Hamilton, son of Benjamin J. and Rachel (Gardner) Hamilton, was born 16 August 1815 in New Jersey, and died 12 June 1891 in Cuba (Allegany) New York. He married (as his first wife) 31 December 1840, Eliza Ann Devoe, who was born 26 January 1819 in New York, and died 6 April 1866 in Hinsdale (Cattaraugus) New York.
Charles bought the farm on Keller Hill in Hinsdale, New York on 16 April 1857, when he was 41 years old. Before then Charles & Eliza and their oldest three children lived in Prattsburgh (Steuben) New York. Eliza’s parents remain unknown, but her son was told that she was descended from a French nobleman, a cousin to Louis XVI, and that her ancestry was French, Dutch and Pennsylvania Quaker. I have found many French and Dutch Devoes (with many spelling variations) in New York and Pennsylvania, but cannot thus far establish any connections. [Curiously, Charles’ niece, Eliza Ann VanDeventer married one Elias DeVoe Bryant, who is a great-grandson of a Dutch woman named Lucy Davoe, and Charles and Eliza did name a daughter Lucy.]
Charles & Eliza lived during the time of the American Civil War (1861-1865).
Eliza’s obituary in The Cuba True Patriot, Vol IV, No 41, 13, April 1866, was sad and brief:
Sudden death. – A lady named Hamilton, who resided a short distance south of this village, died very suddenly on Friday morning last. She was taken by a fainting fit while sitting at the tea table and died in a short time. She leaves a child three weeks old.
After Eliza died, Charles married (as his second wife) a school teacher, Rachel A. Ferris, 11 March 1868 in Cuba (Allegany) New York, daughter of Cyrus and Miriam (—) Ferris. Rev. William O. Learned performed the ceremony, at the residence of the bride’s father. Rachel was born January 1836 in New York and died 1 April 1875 in Hinsdale.
According to the Cuba Evening Review, twice a widower, Charles and his daughter, Addie, made a trip by train to Chicago in June, 1882. Since 1879 he had been living with Addie and her husband, Joseph D. Witter, who died shortly thereafter. His time spent with Addie must have been a great comfort to him after so many losses in a row. (His 6-year-old daughter Lucy died in 1850, wife Eliza died in 1866, 28-year-old son Elmer died in 1870, newborn daughter Myra died in 1871, wife Rachel died in 1875, and his mother in 1877 and father in 1880.) Charles was a Baptist and a Republican. He died of cystitis and catarrh of the bladder. He and both his wives are buried in Lot #11, Cuba Cemetery, Cuba, New York.
According to his son, Charles A. Hamilton:
The following is from Charles Amos Hamilton, An Autobiography, “The Memory of the Just is Blessed”, (Batavia, New York: Privately printed, 1941)
My father [Charles Munson] was always kind to me, gave me spending money, took me to the circus, etc., but he was of the stern type, quite hard of hearing, and so much older than I that we were never pals. My memories of father are, on the whole, pleasant. He was stern, puritanical in faith and honest to the half cent. He hated anything low or crooked. I never heard him tell a risqué story, and he never used profanity. His cuss words were limited to “I swanny,” and “By George,” with, on extreme provocation, the expletive reported to have been used by General Cambronne at the Battle of Waterloo. He was hard-working, thrifty and a good manager. While not painfully pious, he was regular in church attendance, always asking the blessing at meals, and conducting family worship during the winter season. Sister Addie and I had a memorial window installed in his memory in the rebuilt Baptist Church at Cuba, which bears this quotation, “The Memory of the Just is Blessed.” His justice and honesty seemed to us his outstanding characteristic. He was afflicted with partial deafness, an affliction which seems hereditary among the descendants of Benjamin Hamilton. We were never close to each other until I became a college student, when he evidently considered me a man, and we discussed at length all sorts of questions. I deeply revere his memory.
The following is from The Patriot, Cuba New York, Thursday, June 18, 1891:
Death of Chas. M. Hamilton
On Friday, June 12, Mr. Charles M. Hamilton, residing south west of the village, departed this life, aged 75 years and 10 months. Mr. Hamilton had been ill for nearly three years, but death, when it came, seemed sudden, as it does under any circumstances.
Deceased was born in New Jersey and came to New York state when a boy, his home being in Chemung county. All his life he followed farming, his highest ambition when young, being to possess a farm of his own. Thirty-eight years ago he located on the place where he died, living there a happy and contented life and bringing into cultivation as fine a farm as can be found in this vicinity. He was twice married, both his companions in life crossing the river before him. Two children mourn the loss of a loved parent, Mrs. C. B. Conklin and Mr. Chas. A. Hamilton. Mr. Hamilton possessed the entire confidence of his neighbors and friends, and his life was one of honest work, uprightness and integrity. The funeral services were held Sunday at the home of his daughter, Rev. Cherryman of Scott’s Corners officiating.
Charles & Eliza were the parents of five children:
i. Elmer Alonzo Hamilton, a farmer, born 12 October 1841 in New York, died 20 July 1870 in Hinsdale, when struck by lightning. He is buried in Lot #11 in Cuba Cemetery. The following account of Elmer’s death was written many years later by his little brother, Charles, who was 4 years old at the time:
One of my most vivid recollections of this period is the death by a stroke of lightning on July 20th, 1870, of my only brother, Elmer Alonzo. He was my father’s first born, and had grown up into a strong, lusty farmer. He and father were more like brothers than like father and son. He was very fond of his little brother, and used to romp with me and at times good naturedly teased me. To me, there was no one in the world like Elmer. After dinner, on the day of his death, as he was starting for the hay field, I begged him to take me with him, but, as a thunder storm was looming in the west, he told me I couldn’t go. He went alone to the hay field, cocked hay until the storm came up, and a bolt of lightning ended his activities forever. His body was not discovered until the next forenoon, all covered with hay. His untimely death was a terrible blow to the entire family.
And from the Cuba True Patriot, 22 July 1870, Vol 9, No 4:
Killed by Lightning. On Wednesday last, Mr. Elmer Hamilton, son of Charles Hamilton, residing on Keller Hill, in this town was killed by lightning. The particulars as near as we have been able to learn them, are as follows. Just before the terrible thunder-storm of Wednesday Mr. Hamilton went over to his father’s farm, adjoining his own, and just across the Hinsdale town line, to grind his machine knives and repair his mower. Towards night as he did not return his relatives began to wonder at his long absence, and a search was instituted. They looked in every place where it might be possible he might be found, but failed to find him. A large number of neighbors were informed, who searched diligently for the missing man till about 2 o’clock A. M., when the hunt was given up till morning. Thursday morning the body of Mr. Hamilton was found, partly screened by a haycock. By his side, and protruding from the cock of hay was his pitchfork, with the tine end sticking out. Close by was his hat, which led to his discovery. One side of the head was scorched almost to a crisp, plainly indicating the cause of his death. It is supposed that Mr. Hamilton crept under the hay-cock to protect himself from the severe storm, and that the lightning struck the fork which he held in his hand. Mr. Hamilton was about 21 years of age, and a young man generally esteemed by all who knew him.
ii. Lucy D. Hamilton, born 20 January 1844 in New York, died there 11 November 1850, age 6. Lucy lies buried in the Prattsburgh Old Cemetery, Prattsburgh, New York.
iii. Freelove Adelaide “Addie” Hamilton, born in October 1848 in New York, died 9 April 1912 in Cuba. She married (as her first husband) 16 September 1868 in Hinsdale, Joseph D. Witter, who was born 18 April 1843 in Pennsylvania, and died 6 June 1879 in Cuba. Addie & Joseph were the parents of four children. Addie married (as her second husband and as his first wife) 7 February 1883, Clarence B. Conklin, who was born in October 1855 in Pennsylvania and died 30 November 1925 in New York. In the 1880 census Clarence was listed as a boarder in Addie’s household. Addie & Clarence had one daughter. Addie died of cancer when she was about 64. She had played quite an important part in her younger brother Charles’ childhood and adolescent period, being both sister and mother to him. Following are Charles’ thoughts about her two husbands:
Joseph Witter was one of the finest men I ever knew. Honest, industrious, a devout Christian, a fine husband and father. He had a wonderful sense of humor, and saw something funny in nearly all situations. My sister told me that, in their eleven years of married life, he never spoke crossly to her but once. He treated me as I had never been treated before. Joe, treated me as a man, made me drive the team, draw the milk to the cheese-factory, and work alone in the fields dragging. He gave me kindly advice and correction when needed.
Clarence was honest and upright, but painfully ‘close’ in money matters. Two months after their marriage, he lost his mind, and was incarcerated for several months in the Buffalo asylum for the insane. His mind was not very clear during his last years.
iv. Elizabeth Hamilton, born 28 March 1864 in New York, died there 1 August 1864, age 4 months.
v. Charles Amos Hamilton (Tim’s great-grandfather), born 19 March 1866 in Hinsdale, died 28 October 1943 in Batavia (Genesee) New York. He married 30 June 1897 in Albion (Orleans) New York, Gertrude Mabel Hubbard, who was born 9 December 1874 in Albion, and died 31 May 1965 in Marlboro (Monmouth) New Jersey, daughter of Delorma Brown and Emma (Pridmore) Hubbard. Charles & Gertrude were the parents of one daughter.
Charles Munson & Rachel were the parents of a daughter:
i. Myra Eliza Hamilton, who lived for only three days in March 1871.
Years ago we made a research trip to western New York with Tim’s aunt Delorma and were able to see the farm on Keller Hill Road in Hinsdale, and perhaps the cheese factory where their milk was brought. My memory has gotten pretty hazy, we saw so much too fast. We met the Hinsdale town historian and some distant cousins. I’ve never been able to find parents for Eliza, but after this trip was taken I learned that Charles & Eliza buried their 6 year old daughter, Lucy, in Prattsburg, about 75 miles to the east. Lucy died there in 1850 and after that her parents bought the farm in Hinsdale in 1857. So I’m hoping to make a trip to Prattsburg one of these days – perhaps Charles & Eliza were married there and perhaps I can find evidence of Eliza’s parents there.
After we got off the train at Myrdal, we got onto the Flåm Railway (Flåmsbana), “a steep railway taking you past spectacular waterfalls, in and out of snow-capped mountains and ending up by the Aurlandsfjord.” The little village of Flåm is 2838′ (865m) below Myrdal and the train ride took about an hour.
There was a stop along the ride where we were allowed to get off the train and take pictures of the Kjosfossen Waterfall. Both ends of the train were still part way in the tunnels. Norway seems to be the land of tunnels and waterfalls, and presumably, trolls.
The total fall is 738′ (225m). In the picture below there is a woman in a red dress who came out of nowhere to sing and dance for the passengers. She gives a little perspective about the size of this magnificent waterfall.
Apparently Norway is home to nine of the world’s 20 highest waterfalls. High or low, we found them cascading out of the mountains everywhere. No matter how many we saw they continued to dazzle us with their allure.
When we arrived in Flåm, we checked in at the Flåmsbrygga Hotel and then had a scrumptious Viking-style dinner at the Ægir Brewery & Pub. It was very late when we headed for bed, yet it was still light out. The picture above was taken from our hotel balcony and was the last breathtaking scene I savored before falling asleep.
In winter I get up at night And dress by yellow candle-light. In summer, quite the other way, I have to go to bed by day. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson (A Child’s Garden of Verses)
On May 23rd we took the Bergen Railway (Bergensbanen) from Oslo (altitude 75′, 23m) to Myrdal (2,844′, 867m). The line crosses the Hardanger Plateau of Norway (Hardangervidda) at 4,058′ (1,237m) above sea level.
All these pictures were taken through the window glass from the train. Some by me and some by Tim. The scenery was so utterly breathtaking we took turns trying to capture it on camera and then sitting back to enjoy the panorama for a spell.
I was starting to get the feeling I was unprepared for the weather on this trip. Many passengers were bundled up in winter clothing and some got off at various stops carrying their skis. Apparently Norway was also having a late and cold spring.
Little did we know that there had been an avalanche the night before which was blocking the track between Myrdal and Bergen. No one was hurt. It didn’t affect us, though, because we were getting off in Myrdal. But I think everyone going to Bergen got off in Myrdal, too, and made the next train ride down to Flåm more crowded than it otherwise might have been.
As dreamy as the scenery was, when we got off the train at Myrdal Station it was startlingly COLD!!! Fortunately we didn’t have to wait too long for the next train.
There isn’t a train I wouldn’t take. ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay (Travel)
The past few days have been a whirlwind of planning, juggling and preparation – and we finally boarded a train yesterday to come visit Tim’s brother Dan and his family here in Woodbridge, Virginia. By car the trip should take about seven hours, but in recent years it usually winds up taking us eleven hours because of traffic jams, pauses to pay tolls (even with EZ-Pass), rest stops and driver fatigue. Enough already! Tim calculated the cost of gas, wear and tear on the car (last time we came we lost a hubcap!), tolls, food, etc. and decided that the train would only cost slightly more and would save us tons of aggravation!
We hopped on the train in mist and fog at Union Station in New London at 12:46 p.m and arrived at Union Station in Washington at 6:30 p.m. About six hours! This is surely the best way for us to go! Whenever the train ran along I-95 we were going faster than the cars on the road and found this knowledge so thoroughly satisfying.
Had plenty of time to relax and let our thoughts wander or disappear…
Between Old Saybrook (1:08 p.m.) and New Haven (1:35 p.m.) I enjoyed the Connecticut shoreline scenery. Skunk cabbage was everywhere swampy, and in the marshes I saw an egret with two babies! I also saw an osprey pair sitting on their nest on a platform constructed for their nesting convenience.
Around Bridgeport (2:00 p.m.) the marinas and seascapes disappeared and the warehouses and truck lots started appearing, and lots of graffiti, some ugly, some artistic. At Stamford (2:25) my thoughts turned to daughter Larisa and her boyfriend Dima, because his parents live there. They emigrated from Russia to Connecticut when Dima was seven years old. Then the sun started to come out!
New Rochelle, New York (2:45 p.m.), we started seeing jets coming into the various airports in and around New York City. My cousin got married in New Rochelle in 1974 but I don’t remember the details much – the past is gone. Pennsylvania Station, New York City (3:15 pm.) – perhaps Tim & I will be getting off at this station in the near future, Larisa is planning to move to the Big Apple in July to join Dima, who is already living there and working there, doing research at Mount Sinai Medical Center. This was the longest stop as the train took on a new crew for the rest of the trip. I pulled out my Kindle and started reading Falling into Grace by Adyashanti.
I was thoroughly engrossed in the book and didn’t pay much attention to the scenery in New Jersey. We made one stop there in Newark (3:50 p.m.). Two good things – I was not getting motion sickness reading in the train – maybe I grew out of that problem! – and it was a good thing I had my Kindle because if I had Falling into Grace with paper pages I would be underlining almost every sentence! Wished I could talk with Kathy about believing and not believing our thoughts!
As we approached Philadelphia (4:50 p.m.) a hot flash power surge, as Laurie would call it, decided to come over me. Tim was sleeping soundly beside me and it was all I could do to struggle within the confines of my window seat, getting my hoodie off and my indigo blue Japanese fan out of my bag, without elbowing and poking him awake! But I did succeed! Tim has a stepsister and I have a cousin in Philadelphia – I hope we can visit them in July when Jeff has his photography show there, too! Perhaps we’ll take the train…
Wilmington, Delaware (5:15 p.m.) and then Baltimore (6:00 p.m.). My thoughts turned to Dad and Aunt Lil and how they used to take the train to this station to visit their sister, my Aunt Em. We used to drop them off at Union Station in New London in much the same way as Nate dropped us off there earlier. It’s funny when you think about it, how we often repeat patterns from the lives of older relatives. Dad used to drive to Maryland, as we used to drive to Virginia.
And I have a feeling we won’t be driving to Virginia any more. The train was full, even though it wasn’t a holiday weekend. Many middle-aged and elderly ones with suitcases, not just businessmen. If you live on the east coast you probably know what a nightmare traveling on I-95 has become. I heartily recommend the train to anyone!
Washington, D.C. (6:30 p.m.). Dan and his daughter Erica were there to greet us! They work in D.C. and fetched us after work. Fran and her son David had a yummy taco dinner ready for us! We are now safely arrived here with Dan & Fran, even if we were under a tornado watch this morning. But the sun is out now and the weather looks to be improving so we should have a wonderful time catching up with each other!