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Clara Clizbe's Observations - The Judge Report

About Clara Clizbe's Observations

Previous Entry Clara Clizbe's Observations Jun. 8th, 2014 @ 10:53 pm Next Entry
In October of 1956 my grandfather Des Nichols, a life-long resident of Rockton himself, attended an auction at the homestead of a Rockton pioneer family, the old Clizbe place at the corner of Clizbe Avenue on Upper Church Street. While bachelor George Clizbe and his spinster sister Clara were still alive, both were of advanced age and no longer able to care for the farm, or themselves either for that matter. Several generations of furnishings and goods were sold off that day. The house and barns would eventually be torn down to make room for Highland and Holland Gardens town houses.

The auctioneer was a friend of Des, and together they took a last walk through the house after the auction had ended. In the attic they came across a stack of old local newspapers. Des being something of a history buff, the copies of the Recorder detailing the sinking of the Titanic caught his eye. He asked the auctioneer to name a price. "Take the whole lot of them. Just get them out of here."

So he took them home, and in addition to the Titanic issues he found some from World War I, including an article about himself that he had never seen. It delighted him.

But also he found a small manilla envelope containing other treasures, the school essays of teen-ager Clara Clizbe covering several years in the late 1880's, probably from the Amsterdam Academy, then located at the top of Wall Street, where the Academy Street School would later stand.

Clara Clizbe was born in March of 1870, daughter of Samuel Clizbe and Mary Antoinette Chamberlain, in the family homestead that she would occupy for the rest of her life until infirmity forced her into a nursing home. Her great-grandparents had moved to what became Amsterdam in 1798, when her grandfather Darius Clizbe was but nine years old. The farmlands were divided between Darius' sons, and the part that went to Clara's uncle Marcus Clizbe became the Rockton Realty Plot early in the 20th century. Des lived in one of the houses built on that plot on McCleary Avenue.

There is a simple charm to young Clara Clizbe's stories. I present a sampling of them here, in no particular order. We'll begin with one that places her in the time frame of our country's development, for the event that she writes so passionately about took place a mere ten months before her own birth.

January 14, 1889

Thirty years ago almost nothing was known of the United States west of the Mississippi, unless it might have been the California coast; and now as we glance at the map of this region, and see the important place it is destined to fill in the records of the nation we are filled with surprise.

At the aforementioned time Indians, buffaloes, antelopes and prairie dogs were to be seen anywhere. Now the Indians are gradually diminishing; scarcely a buffalo is found, and antelopes and prairie dogs are fast dying out.

At that time we had no way of visiting that country except in stage coaches, and these were not very convenient, and rather unsafe, and so few people thought or cared about that great unoccupied territory.

Now the Union Pacific Rail Road extends across plains, mountains and valleys to the Pacific coast. This railroad was completed May 10, 1869, and was the means of uniting the East with the West. What a fortunate day that has already proved to this country!

It was a real May morning: the sky was a clear blue and the little songsters sang out a joyous welcome. Engines and trains from the East and from the West stood facing each other. A few rods between then had as yet no ties.

Telegraph arrangements had been made so that every place in the land should be connected. When the last tie was laid the telegraph flashed the message through the country, "Are you ready?" Back from many cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago, and Washington comes the answer, "All ready." Again the telegraph says, "At the third tap it will be done." "We understand," was the answer.

There is a few minutes silence, then it is broken by the wires saying, "We are now going to attend prayers. Hats off."

Immediately the hats are removed, the heads bowed, and all listen to the prayer as it leaps over the wire, sentence by sentence, to places four thousand miles apart. What a place in which to pray! Was prayer ever heard by mortal ears before, four thousand miles away?

In a few minutes telegrams come back from many cities, saying, "The bells are ringing and the people rejoicing."

Why should they not rejoice? It certainly was joyful news the telegraph repeated that day.

And Clara wrote with a sense of place over the years, beginning with her observations of Amsterdam when its status as a city was brand new.

By Clara Clizbe
April 5, 1887

It is situated in Montgomery County, New York State on the Mohawk River, a branch of the Hudson, the largest river in the state, which enters into the Atlantic Ocean at New York Bay.

There are no high mountains near us, the nearest being the Catskills and Adirondacks, they not being of a very great height.

It is not a large city, but it is not far from Albany, the capital of the state. It contains about sixteen thousand inhabitants and is continuously increasing, because of the employment found in the mills. Passing through the city is the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, which was built many years ago.

The principal streets are Main, Church and Market.

There are no colleges but there are schools of high rank.

There are also a number of churches, among them the Episcopal, Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist and Roman Catholic.

The leading industry is manufacturing by which most of the people gain a livelihood.

The scenery, especially along the river about the time of the setting of the sun is beautiful.

October 26, 1886

It is nearing about half after eight and I must be starting or I will have a tardy mark and as I am beginning on the second deportment card I do not want a tardy mark to begin with, for I had one on my last and I hope to get a better one over time.

I leave home feeling in a slight hurry for I have some distance to walk. Half a mile of rough country road is not a pleasant prospect. But there is not time to think of that now. I hasten my steps thinking only of lessons and a cheerful school room. The milk men have gone down at an earlier hour and now occasionally a farmer is on his road to the city with apples or other farm produce. I walk a short distance when I approach the Sanford's Round View Farm with its large white barn and rather ancient house and there take his high built side walk until I reach the suburb or “Reid Street” as it is commonly termed, but pass by rather hurriedly for I find nothing to attract the eye or harmonious to the ear.

I have just passed by the railroad and the oil mill when Mr. Sanford's immense carpet buildings come in view and after this a pleasant five minutes walk brings me to my journey's end – a school room.

November 18, 1887

It was in the Spring of 1885 that I left home one pleasant afternoon to visit a schoolmate residing about two and one half miles distant. I reached there and spent a pleasant evening.

We decided to take a ramble the next day. My friend's mother approved of it and decided to go along. We invited four young ladies from the next neighbors and making a merry company of seven started. We crossed field after field clothed in verdant green, through woods, bushes and brambles, over fences and hills and through valleys, enjoying the scenery as we passed.

We finally came to a quarry of which I heard some little history. It was a stone quarry that had some years ago been worked, but it was now abandoned by the workmen. The tools lay around in all parts looking just as if the workers had left to eat their lunch.

But the most interesting thing of all was an old shanty, now nearly rotted down and containing many blacksmith tools, among which I noticed anvils., wrenches, pincers, hammers, files, tongs, vises and irons of every description, and also an old bellows.

Silence reigned here and has for many years, except when visited by pedestrians like ourselves. It seemed strange to us  that these things were left undisturbed for so long, but the reason is, I think, because there are few who have business away off there in the fields. If it were near our city they never would have remained so long.

We left this place and soon came to a saw-mill. This, like the quarry, was without people or workmen. It had been run by a steam engine which was still standing under the roof.

I had never seen an engine like it, so I examined it a little. Out back of the mill was a number of piles of saw dust and quantities of lumber, some sawed and the rest to be sawed.

We were off in the fields, but we knew our nearest station was Cranes hollow. We thought best to strike the road as near that place as possible. We reached the road  and proceeded to Cranes Village and stopping at the store to see a venerable old bachelor, buy gum, and fan ourselves with brush brooms while he treated us to candy.

After resting ourselves we ascended a long hill and began to feel as if we were approaching home.

I came home feeling rather tired and sore but having never the less enjoyed the day.

As some of Clara's essays are clearly fictional, it is sometimes difficult to determine what is imagination and what autobiography, but as someone once said, "What does it matter at this point?"

May 28, 1888

Among my first memories is one day in early March when I had just been four years old, I went with Papa for a sleigh ride.

Mamma dressed me in a little red merino dress trimmed with black silk braid. Then she put on a red crocheted hood and my cloak, tucked me snugly in the cutter and we drove away.

I do not remember anything until we reached a large white house. I was taken in by a lady while Papa went to the barn. As soon as I went in the lady laid off my hood and wanted to take off my cloak, but to this I strongly objected. She persisted saying if I did not take it off I would catch cold coming home.

I had it settled in my mind that I would not do it and I wiggled, twisted, held my hands over the buttons, screamed “no” and altogether acted very rudely.

I sat down in a small chair that belonged to a little boy of the house. Soon an old lady whom I had seen about the house came to me and talked to me until I came to like her very much. But the boy would not say a word to me. I was quite anxious to play with him so I went across the room and began to talk to him. But he would not say a word to me.

When and how I left the house I do not remember.

For the year of 1876 I spent the summer at a small village nearly five miles out of Albany. I was visiting my Aunty and a cousin who was nearly my own age. We used to have gay times. While I was there my Aunty began to think she would like to go to the Centennial. So she hired a lady to come and keep house and take care of us children.

She lived not far from there and often went home to do some work and see to her chickens. We always knew when she was going for just before she would be in such a hurry to get the work done.

One day while she was gone we went into the attic, dressed ourselves in long dresses and came down stairs. Not content with this, we must go out to the street. While we were out we saw a flock of sheep coming into the village. This was not an uncommon sight for the place was situated on the Boston and Albany Turnpike where many droves passed during the summer.

We went to the gate and the man asked us if we would like to have a sheep. We said “yes” and he told us if we could catch one we could have it. I would like to have tried but my cousin did not think this a good plan so I gave up my wish.

We went back to the house, up stairs and took off our dresses.

How well I remember another time when I was visiting in the winter. It was quite a few years later. I was coming down the back stairs when a neighbor came toward me with a paper in his hand. He asked me if Mrs. Bloomingdale was home. I told him “no.”

Then he gave me the paper, telling me at the same time that my father had been shot the evening before.

I took the paper and went in the house and sat down to read the piece he had pointed out. It said Papa had been shot while on his way to the village the evening before by a Dr. --- . It further stated that he had not been seen since and was supposed to have crawled off in the woods to die.

By this time I was so affected that I could not read farther and laid the paper down on a chair near me. In a few moments my Aunty came home and I showed her the paper. She took it and read it over then I asked her to read it to me for I had not been able to read but a small portion of it. She read me that a Dr. Lewis had been shot and it was so different I thought I did not read it right.

So I dried my tears for that night and the next night Papa came out in the stage.

The report was false or rather was added to until it made quite a different story. The Dr. fired three shots; only one hit Papa, that just passing through the back part of his neck and two different places on his coat collar. He had come down after me thinking I would hear of it and feel very much alarmed.

I was never so glad to see him in my life as I was that night.

February 25, 1889

We were to have a picnic, composed of a very few girls like myself, and the day appointed was about the first of June. We were to do all the baking alone, accepting no help from any who might offer assistance.

At last the appointed day arrived. It was a charming morning, and we all set off very happy. At length we reached the grove. It was a beautiful place. The old pines and some few stately elms were the principal trees.

We began to think about some place for our table. We found some nice, wide boards, and by placing the ends on stumps made quite a table, although it was rather low. The table was spread with a nice linen table cloth, and the provisions placed on it. We were not quite ready for dinner, so we strolled off for wintergreens. When we were tired of this we came back and had our dinner.

After this we had some few exercises we had prepared, and then some went to look for wild flowers, while others sat down in groups, to give and guess riddles, tell stories or play games.

Up the stream from where we had come to spend the day we knew lived a widow with her only child, a boy about four years of age, with blue eyes and golden hair. We had seen him a few times during the day, but only at a distance, as he seemed too bashful to come very near us.

As the sun lowered in the western heavens, we began to think about going home. We were all together by this time at the bank of the stream where we had tried to fish with flies as bait, and bent pins for hooks. I may as well add that a few times our bait was missing  when we drew the line out of the water, but no sign of fish did we see.

Suddenly there was a shriek, then another, followed by yet another.

The voice was that of the little boy whom we had seen during the day. At the second shriek one of our number started in the direction of the sound. The others followed. Going a short distance we saw what was the matter.

The child, while attempting to cross a little wooden foot bridge which spans the stream, has slipped and fallen off. At that place the stream had a very rapid current and the child was soon seen to be going with it.

The girl who was the first to spring from her seat when the alarm was given, and who naturally was of a very brave character, was now preparing to go to the rescue of the child. Before we were hardly aware of it she was in the water. She knew but little about swimming and it was a very dangerous thing for her to do. But it seemed as if her efforts were of no avail, for, though the boy was scarcely ten feet ahead of her she could not overtake him. Once when the boy went out of sight we all thought he had sunk never to rise again, but we were mistaken for he again appeared.

Our companion now appeared to redouble all efforts to reach the child, and in this she was successful.

How joyful we were to see her coming slowly toward the land with the child, and how much we afterward praised her for her bravery. The child was taken home and with how much thanks did that poor widow receive her only child, the light of her house.

I remember one of her strongest and sweetest sayings was, “I can not reward you, but God will.

After this exciting accident we were glad enough to leave the grove and go home. We gathered up our baskets and started.

I have often wished that I could again visit that place and see if the poor widow and child are there yet, and if the stream looks as it did then, but if I could, how I should miss some of the girls who were with me that day.

March 25, 1889

One thing I have learned since my ninth year; that is that no one has ever reached the end of the rainbow, and hence the legendary pot of gold has never been found.

When I was a little girl, my Aunty, who always amused me very much by her charming stories, told me, in answer to my inquiries concerning the pot of gold, that, as she had never accomplished a journey to this fairy place, she did not know whether it could be found or not. She also said that she hoped that I would sometime be able to go, and if I reached the place and found the gold, that I would remember her, because sometime she expected to get married and it would be a beautiful wedding present.

I listened so attentively that before the afternoon had passed I had all my plans nearly made.

But the more I thought of it, the more difficulties appeared; first I would have to wait until I saw a rainbow that I might be guided by it; secondly I was perplexed to know how I should get away from home without being seen.

I waited for many days; the days became weeks and weeks became months, yet no rainbow made its appearance.

I was in the habit of taking the place of a boy on the farm, partly because there was no such person and partly because I rather liked to be called my father's only boy.

One morning I came down stairs and I found the cows nearly ready to be driven out to pasture. I put on my sun-bonnet and calling my dog started with them.

I do not know just what month it was but it had been a rather chilly night and there was a very heavy dew.

As I neared the pasture I saw a large rainbow spanning the western heavens. I was much surprised to see one before six o'clock, and in the western heavens too. But I took it as an omen of good luck. I knew I would not dare return home for fear of being kept there, and as I was in the habit of doing quite a bit of traveling before breakfast, I did not think I would get hungry before I reached the end of my journey. So I hastily put up the bars and started.

I knew just where it came down and I hastened along thinking of the dolls I would have and how large a piece I would give to my aunty for a wedding present.

I crossed the swamp and entered the woods. I felt very familiar with these places because several times I had hunted until dark for the missing cows, who seemed occasionally to prefer to stay in concealment rather than come down to the bars.

I hurried through with all speed possible, for I only caught occasional glances at the rainbow and I was afraid it would be gone before I could reach the creek where I was so sure it came down. But alas! I was doomed to disappointment for it was yet some distance off.

I now decided it must end in a swamp a little farther on. I do not know why, but I thought it either ended in a swamp or a creek.

By the time I reached the swamp I was tired and finding a stone I sat down. When I ventured to look up for the rainbow it had entirely gone.

What should I do?

When I started out I thought the valuables I should find would entirely make up for the chidings I knew I should get for running away. But now I had nothing to show for my pilgrimage except torn clothes and wet feet.

There was no other way. I should have to go home and answer all the questions asked me. I thought it was unjust after I had met with so many difficulties, and such a great disappointment, that I should be tortured with questions.

I now began to feel faint from want of food. I dragged home a sadder and much wiser girl than when I left that morning. On my way back it was light and I could pick my path better than before because then the sun had not arisen.

When I reached the house I flung myself down in the doorway complaining of feeling sick. I ate some toast and after lying down a while felt quite like myself.

I never told about my chase after riches, but left it to be thought that I was feeling sick and had tarried along the road.

Finally one day I did tell it to Mamma. She thought I paid dear for what I did not get. I have since given up finding riches at the end of the rainbow and hope to find treasures better than silver or gold.

November 26, 1888

Yes, it used to be in a village, but of course a very small one. Now the store and many of the houses are gone, but this is the church.

Back there at the left is the old church shed. And there methinks I can see Dolly patiently waiting for the service to end.

If you look up there you will see the old red school-house where I always went to school as a child. During the noon-hour, here on the shady side of the church when it was a hot summers day, we used to play such games as Tag, Tin-tin, Colors, Speckled Cow, Snap-the-Whip and Quaker Meeting. Speaking of these games makes me think of my old school mates.

Some are living in far off states, while others are dead and the few remaining ones are still living near here.

But let us enter the church. The doors easily open.

The first thing we observe is the large box stove. It is odd-looking, but with these two stoves the front of the church at least was kept warm.

Then here you see is the pulpit. The chairs and sofa are covered with bright red {illegible}  The Bible with its well-worn leather cover looks as natural as the rest.

Everything is so natural that I seem to see the pastor, with his white hair and beard, reading from the Book in front of him.

But now let us turn to the pews. You see some are with cushions and some without. They all have doors which we open we enter and close after us. That one back of the third post and which has a green cushion is our pew. If I had the time I could tell you where nearly all the people used to sit.

Now that we have seen everything downstairs, we will go upstairs where we used to have Sunday School. Here in this row is where our class used to meet.

But my Sunday School mates like my Day School mates are scattered and my teacher is numbered among those who have entered the Heavenly Gates. I was very young at the time, so my lesson was to learn the Golden Rule.

This I found in my Sunday School Paper called “The Sunbeam”. The papers were given out on Sunday and contained the next Sunday's lesson. If for any reason I was not there to get my paper, Mr. B ____ would stop and give it to me while passing some time during the week.

But now, if you have seen all the interesting things of the church we will leave it and go home for it is nearing time for the evening meal.

October 15, 1888

What a morning.

The sun is up. All nature is alive and joyous. The breeze is good and refreshing. Everything betokens a pleasant day. This is the day we had set apart for our drive. It proves a pleasant afternoon, and by two o'clock we are starting.

There are roads running in all directions, but we take the one at our right.

The scenery is grand and one is inspired by the beauties of Nature. First the trees clothed in such delicate shades of red yellow and brown attract our attention. Next a hill, dotted with cattle quietly cropping the pasture and seeming to enjoy it as if it were June instead of October. Yonder is the church, where we have for many years gone to worship. It always looks the same Summer and Winter.

Just beyond this is the parsonage; although somewhat weather-beaten it has the same cozy look it had when I first remember it.

A little farther on we come to the grave-yard; it looks the same and yet different. The iron gate is rusty and grates on its hinges as we open it. We enter.

Some of the stones are old, while a few bear quite recent dates. The first two next to the gate bear my great-grandfather and great-grandmother's names. Back in the corner, nearly hidden by those alders, is another stone bearing the same family name.

I read on other stones the names of many whom I used to know.

Few flowers adorn the graves. Perhaps the mourners have learned to look to the blue sky by day and to the stars by night, and to think that the dead are there and not in their graves.

The sun is beginning to hide himself beyond the western hills and we start for home. Things appear more melancholy than when we left. Perhaps it is because our minds have been associated with sad thoughts for the last half hour. As we go along, we say with Gray,

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Await alike th' inevitable hour--
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Miss Clara Clizbe
Miss Clara Clizbe, 89, died Saturday [January 23, 1960] at 7 p.m. at the Bennett Nursing Home.

She was born in Amsterdam March 2, 1870, a daughter of Samuel J. and Antoinette Chamberlain Clizbe and lived with her brother, George H. Clizbe, on the Clizbe farm on Upper Church St. until about 10 years ago. She was a member of the Forest Avenue Methodist Church.

Her brother survives together with one niece and several grand-nieces and grand-nephews.

Funeral of Miss Clizbe
The funeral of Miss Clara Clizbe was held at the funeral house of Johnson-Lindsay Tuesday afternoon
at 2 o'clock, the Rev. Royal B. Fishbeck Jr. officiating.

The bearers were Leland Johnson, Donald Grant, Clarence Van DerVeer and Robert Seeley. Interment
was in Green Hill Cemetery.

Attending the service from out of town were Stuart Clizbe, Mrs. Joseph Maier, Mrs. Wesley Cooper, Mrs. James Magin, Miss Myra Maier, Arthur Fisher, Mr. and Mrs. William Steffen, Raymond Sheley,  Albany, Mrs. Fannie Van Buren, East Greenbush; Mrs. Lulu Finkle, Mrs. Herman Sumner, Selkirk.

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