A Presidential Picnic in Newfield, New York

By: Matthew James Watros

Without a doubt, the most recognized event in Newfield’s history must be President Theodore Roosevelt’s visit on October 24, 1910. The fact that there is photographic evidence of the occasion probably has a lot to do with the event’s fame. Anyone who has lived in town for a few years or more has likely seen the photos of the former president gracing the balcony of the old Newfield Hotel.

PHOTO Teddy Roosevelt at the Newfield Hotel 1910Photo from “Some Moments of History in Newfield History Recalled,” Ithaca Journal, September 26, 1970. Courtesy of the Newfield Historical Society.

For the majority of current citizens of the town, that is the extent of their knowledge of President Roosevelt’s visit. There is, however, more to the story.

Before coming to the village to give his speech, the retired president motored his way through Trumbull’s Corners, Connecticut Hill, and Pony Hollow, where he visited a couple of family farms. Then, after his speech given at the hotel, he and his entourage of congressmen and reporters traveled with the townsfolk up to Picnic Corners for a meal.

Picnic Corners, for those who don’t know, is located at what we know today as the intersection of Van Kirk Road and Irish Hill Road. Back then though, it was nearly a four-corner intersection, as Stark Road used to meet Van Kirk just a few yards east of the Van Kirk/Irish Hill intersection.

MAP Picnic Corners TCDA Newfield_Enfield 1938 croppedThe 1938 Tompkins County Development Association map shows the location of Picnic Corners southwest of Irish Corners. (Note that this map has some errors, including mislabeled road names.)

Throughout much of his time in Newfield, Mr. Roosevelt seems to have enjoyed himself and was apparently in a very playful and quick-witted mood. At Picnic Corners, it was reported that he spent around an hour with the locals, “eating and fooling around,” and that “passerby would never have known that an ex-president was in that luncheon.”

Being the outdoors lover that he was, the former president must have surely enjoyed the beautiful and hilly countryside that our town offers, as well as the informality of the occasion.

A little reminiscent of current affairs, an Ithaca newspaper even told of him poking a little fun at the media and his political opponents. As he was about to down a glass of water before moving along, he was reported as saying, “Now I suppose they will say I stopped at a picnic and drank heavily.”

Currently, the site of Picnic Corners has been mostly reclaimed by the forest, and a few new houses have popped up along the roads in the area. A fine grass can still be seen growing at the old picnic grounds, though, under the trees on the southeast corner of the intersection.

A lingering piece of the past, the grassy area reminds the modern Newfielder that the intersection was once much more open and inviting for the townsfolk to come park their buggies or wagons. Surely, many a picnic was enjoyed there, spread out over a homespun blanket on a sunny day.

PHOTO Picnic Corners Historical Marker 2017

Just this past summer (2016), a new blue-and-yellow New York State historical marker was erected at the old intersection to commemorate President Theodore Roosevelt’s brief but memorable time there. The sign was paid for with funds from a grant awarded to the town by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation.

 

Matt Watros Jr. is a lifelong resident of Newfield whose PHOTO Matt Watrosfamily in Newfield goes back generations. He is a Marine veteran who served in Iraq, a firefighter/E.M.T. for the Ithaca Fire Department, and a former Civil war reenactor. His interest in Newfield history is broad, involved, and informative. Due to his efforts, Picnic Corners is now recognized as a historic site worthy of the Pomeroy historic marker.

 

ADDITIONAL READING

“Teddy Roosevelt’s Visit to Newfield,” Newfield Historical Society

Githler, Charley. “Newfield Marks 100-Year Anniversary of Roosevelt Visit,” Ithaca Times, September 29, 2010.

The “King of Trumansburg” on Camp Street

By S.K. List

Camp Street was named for Hermon Camp (1787-1878) and for the Camp house, the impressive Greek Revival-style home he built between 1845 and 1847, which stands almost alone on one entire Trumansburg block.

MAP Lawn Street 1853 Atlas1
The 1853 map of Trumansburg village shows the Camp’s residence as “Lawnside,” directly across from the Union School House, of which Hermon Camp was the first president.

Originally, the street was called “Lawn Street,” and on an 1853 map of the village, Camp’s residence is shown there with the name “Lawnside.”

MAP Lawn Street 1866 Atlas
The 1866 Trumansburg map from the New Topographical Atlas of Tompkins County shows the Camp mansion’s circular driveway extending from Lawn Street.

Lawn Street persists as the location of Camp’s house on an 1866 Trumansburg map, and, into the 1870s, it is the listed address in his ads for the manufacture of “pure flax seed oil” in copies of the Tompkins County Sentinel. These ads continued to run after the year of his death and continued to list Lawn Street.

MAP Lawn Camp St 1965
The 1965 village of Trumansburg tax map retains the Lawn Street label, with “Camp” handwritten in parentheses.

By the 1880s, “Camp Street” had begun to appear occasionally as an identified location in the local papers, but so did Lawn. However, as late as October 1965, on a Trumansburg tax map, the street with Camp’s house is printed as “Lawn Street,” although a copy of the same map shows a hand-written amendment to include the word “(Camp)” in the labeling. Subsequent maps, including the current (2017) village tax map, firmly indicate Camp Street.

Born in Connecticut, Camp arrived in Trumansburg at age 18, from Owego, to the south, and stayed for the rest of his life. Once a casual purveyor of whiskey, Camp underwent religious conversion in 1831 and took up a host of causes.

According to the History of Trumansburg (1890) by local newspaper editor A. P. Osborn, “the light-hearted, open-handed, free-thinking man became an austere and uncompromising Calvinist. He abandoned the sale of liquor and began the war against its sale and use that he fought to his dying day.”

Not just a temperance man but a vigorous advocate of the Sunday School movement, abolition, and other reforms, Camp served as postmaster, shopkeeper, library founder, county sheriff, state assemblyman, banker, and as a cavalry colonel in the War of 1812.

He was also the dominating presence in the social and cultural life of Trumansburg. Recognized in his day as “the foremost merchant in all the country between the lakes,” he was likewise, Osborn notes, “no saint” and could be “inflexible in purpose.” “He would brook no opposition,” Osborn reported, and “everything must yield to his imperious will.” He wrote that Camp:

made more friends and more enemies than any man who has ever lived here; he never occupied a neutral position in business, public affairs or to individuals, he was always for or against, and as like begats like, the people with whom he was surrounded were either for or against him; but there is no doubt that for more than half a century he was the master spirit in all the affairs of this place.

This view lingered, as illustrated when 1930s Ithaca Journal columnist Romeyn Berry commented that Camp “came pretty close to being King of Trumansburg, Duke of Ulysses and Overlord of Tompkins County.”

Camp married, but in 1825, Osborn says, “occurred the most important event of Mr. Camp’s life, namely, his separation and subsequent divorce from his first wife.” This parting from spouse Lucinda reverberated throughout the village, creating rifts that affected church congregations, political affiliations, jury deliberations, families, and friendships, even reportedly spilling over to the next generations.

The reasons for such an impact are cloudy: it’s been suggested that Camp became displeased that no issue was proceeding from the union, but hints point to some other cause. Trumansburg historian Lydia Sears referred to a contemporaneous diary entry indicating that Camp “hoped that God would forgive [Lucinda],” but Sears alleged that “the lady, for she was indeed a lady, had been framed.”

Lucinda remarried in 1828, to Joseph Goodwin, of the settler family at Taughannock Point (once known as Goodwin’s Point), and Camp himself married three more times and fathered 13 children. The names of Wives Two through Four are inscribed on the commanding granite obelisk at Camp’s grave (and, presumably, theirs) in Trumansburg’s Grove Cemetery. The fourth, who survived him, had been the widow of his nephew. The Camp house remained in family hands until 2002 and is a village landmark today.

PHOTO Camp Mansion Today
The Camp mansion today (Photo from Tompkins County Assessment Office).

While no specific declaration of the block’s name change has come to light, it seems that Camp’s out-size persona, along with the imposing stature of his house, in time led to the gradual morphing of Lawn Street in the public mind and to the eventual permanent designation of his seat of power as Camp Street.

SKL 95-cropS.K. List, the Trumansburg village historian, is a writer, editor, and former journalist living in Trumansburg. She has been a goat farmer, blacksmith, painter, publisher, arts center director, and hippie-communard. As the editor of the Ithaca Times and then Ithaca Child, List has covered local news extensively. Her writing has also appeared in The New York Times, American Demographics, Rock & Roll Confidential, and various other publications here and there across the country.

SOURCES

Berry, Romeyn. Ithaca Journal, January 6, 13, 1936.

Osborn, A.P. History of Trumansburg, Free Press, Trumansburg, New York, 1890.

Sears, Lydia. A History of Trumansburg, New York, 1792-1967, Trumansburg, N.Y., Privately published, 1968.

Tompkins County Clerk, New York. Certificate of Appointment (Estate), Instrument Number 421582-006, October 23, 2002.

Tompkins County Clerk, New York. Deed Book CD2513 Page 2944, October 25, 2002.

The Dutch Roots of Ithaca’s Dey Street

By Patricia Longoria

Dey St sign 4 19 2017

On the northwestern edge of Ithaca’s Fall Creek neighborhood, a turn from busy State Route 13 (North Meadow Street) leads to tree-lined Dey Street. Only three blocks long, the street has a relaxed, neighborhood vibe. Its tidy late-Victorian homes sit close to the street on narrow lots.

Dey St Cottages vert 4 19 2017

At one end, where Dey Street and Auburn Street meet at an acute angle, a V-shaped pocket park offers a shaded reminder to slow down and enjoy the day. On an early spring afternoon, kids play a game of baseball. Younger children shriek happily as they launch from a swing and climb on the play structure.

A three-story brick building, once home to the Ithaca Calendar Clock Company, dominates the block across from the park. The former factory currently houses a music store. From it drift the high squeak of a music student’s brass instrument and a jazz duo’s low bass strum.

Manhattan’s Dey Street

More than 200 miles southeast of Ithaca, in the heart of Manhattan’s Financial District, another street carries the same name. Dey Street runs between Broadway and Church Street just a stone’s throw from the World Trade Center. The narrow thoroughfare is only a block long. Much of the street’s pedestrian traffic flows underground through the Dey Street Concourse, where commuters can access multiple subway and rail lines.[1]

Though hundreds of miles apart, both streets were named for the Dutch Dey family who arrived in colonial New Amsterdam in the seventeenth century. The Deys were politically and socially prominent landowners and merchants. By 1750, Manhattan’s Dey Street was laid out as a rural road bisecting the Dey family’s five-and-a-half acre farm.[2] The property extended to the Hudson River.

Jane Dey (1728-1810) and her husband John Varick (1730-1809) inherited several lots along Dey Street in 1764.[3] It was the Varicks’ daughter Jane who made the Dey family’s Ithaca connection.

In 1799, Jane Dey Varick Hardenberg (1760-1808), by then a widow,[4] married New York Surveyor General Simeon DeWitt (1756-1834), himself a widower. The couple lived in Albany, but by the time of their marriage DeWitt owned more than 1,000 acres in Ithaca, then known as Ulysses (Military Tract township Number 22).[5]

Ithaca’s Dey Street is Named

At the end of 1834, Simeon DeWitt died in Ithaca. Richard Varick DeWitt (1800-1868)[6]—Simeon DeWitt and Jane Varick DeWitt’s oldest son—managed the sale of his father’s extensive Ithaca property. Richard, along with two other commissioners, divided the DeWitt estate into lots.

They laid out and named a host of new streets in what would later become Ithaca’s Northside and Fall Creek neighborhoods. The prosaic First through Seventh streets paralleled Cascadilla Creek. The Founding Father streets included Franklin, Adams, Hancock, and Madison. The New York state governor streets of Yates, Tompkins, and Lewis were sandwiched between streets named for first Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay and fourth Chief Justice John Marshall. The resulting 1836 map was the first to show Dey Street named and laid out, running diagonally to Railroad Avenue and next to the aptly named Short Street.

Map of Ithaca 1836 screen capture

Dey Street and some of the other roads in the new section of Ithaca deviated from the north-south and east-west orientation of older streets. But, for the most part, Richard followed his father’s surveying model, with an ordered, grid-like pattern of streets.

On an earlier map made in 1831, Simeon DeWitt had acknowledged his wife’s father’s family by naming Varick Street (now Park Place) along a public park. Richard’s uncle and namesake, Richard Varick (1753-1831), was mayor of New York City in the first decade after American independence.

Similarly, Richard chose to recognize his mother’s Dey ancestors with the naming of Dey Street. The names of political figures imbued the raw, young village’s planned streets—most of them rough dirt tracks—with a sense of patriotism and history. The Dey name evoked Revolutionary War heroes and leaders of the early republic.

Thus mapped, Dey Street in Ithaca marked the legacy of a Dutch American family whose members fought to build a new nation and invested in (gambled on?) an upstate New York region brimming with confidence in its future prosperity.

However, Richard Varick DeWitt and the investors who purchased his father’s lots could not have known that this optimism would soon be challenged. The Panic of 1837 touched off a decades-long financial recession that depressed real estate prices and forced some of the DeWitt estate buyers into bankruptcy. It would be almost four decades before Dey Street buzzed with the electric energy of a successful commercial enterprise when the Ithaca Calendar Clock Company built its three-story brick factory there at the start of Ithaca’s industrial boom.

Ithaca Calendar Clock Company THC
On what is today the northern third section of Dey Street, the county fairgrounds’ exhibit hall once bordered a horse-racing track. The Ithaca Calendar Clock Company bought the fairgrounds from the Tompkins County Agricultural Society and built its factory on part of this property in 1875. The original building burned down the next year but was rebuilt. (Photo used with permission from The History Center in Tompkins County)
PHOTO Norton Cottages Dey St ca 1884
Dey Street was no more than a weed-choked, dirt track in the mid-1880s. By 1884, these six identical “Norton cottages” had been built across from the Ithaca Calendar Clock Company factory. James Norton ran a grocery store at the corner of Dey and Adams streets, and he and his wife Elizabeth Norton owned the nearby lots. Most of the first residents of the Norton cottages were families of workers employed at the Ithaca Glass Works at Third and Franklin streets. (Photo used with permission from The History Center in Tompkins County)

 

Pat SunPatricia Longoria is deputy historian of the Village of Cayuga Heights and coordinator of the Names on the Land–Tompkins County project. Pat has been an editor and writer in educational publishing for more than two decades. Her archival research and graduate training in Latin American history translate surprisingly well to deciphering the spidery handwriting on old property deeds, puzzling out the family trees of early Tompkins County residents, and finding names on historical maps. 

ENDNOTES

[1] “Fulton Center Connection to World Trade Center PATH Station to Open Thursday; New Access Point Links 9 Subway Lines with Port Authority Trans-Hudson Rail Service,” MTA Press Release, May 25, 2016.

[2] Treman, Ebenezer Mack. History of the Treman, Tremaine, Truman Family, Vol. 1, Press of the Ithaca democrat, Ithaca, 1901, pp. 743-744 and pp. 755-756.

[3] “Abstracts of Wills on File in the Surrogate’s Office, City of New York, Vol. VI, 1760-1766, With Letters of Administration Granted 1760-1766,” in “Collections of the New-York Historical Society for the Year 1897,” New York, 1897, pp. 321-322.

[4] “DIED, in this city, in the 37th year of his age, Maj. Abraham Hardenberg, one of the officers of the late American army.” Columbian Gazetteer, New York, New York, October 13, 1794. Birth and death dates for Jane V.H. DeWitt confirmed in Reynolds, Cuyler (ed.). Hudson-Mohawk Genealogical and Family Memoirs, Vol. 1, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, New York, 1911, p. 366. (Same source says that Jane was the sister of Revolutionary War Colonel Richard Varick, who served as mayor of New York.) Death date confirmed in U.S., Newspaper Extractions from the Northeast, 1704-1930. Find A Grave lists her birth date incorrectly as 1784 and death date as 1808. New Jersey, Marriage Records, 1683-1802 lists her marriage to Abraham Hardenburgh (Ulster, NY) as 22 January 1784. US, Newspaper Extractions from the Northeast, 1704-1930: “Hardenberg, Abraham, Maj., officer of American Army, d. at New York (C.C. Oct. 18, 1794).” The Seward Family Digital Archive includes Jane, “d. 1808, widow of Abraham Hardenbergh [1756-1794].” https://sewardproject.org/person-public-fields/5270.

[5] Heidt, William. Simeon DeWitt; Founder of Ithaca, DeWitt Historical Society of Tompkins County, Ithaca, 1968, p. VII and pp. 21-23.

[6] Treman, p. 791.