Visiting the Stowell Farm

[Charles E. Page, Sept. 2004]

This story is about visiting the Chester and Bertha Stowell farm near Bouckville. My sisters and I were young kids, and our family went to the farm to pick cherries. My Great Uncle, Chet Stowell, had a number of cherry trees, and he invited us to come and pick some for my mother to can. One evening after supper we drove to the farm.

I don't think we kids were of any help picking cherries, but we had a good time running around on the hillside pasture above the house playing "Cowboys and Indians".

Chet and Bertha's youngest son, Bobby, about my age, [maybe about five or six years old] was there along with a neighbor girl who was a little older than we were. She knew the territory around the farm and immediately took charge of the games. She knew exactly how the game should be played. It seems Alyce and Dora would be taken prisoner by a "band" of Indians [composed of Bobby], and then some of us were supposed to track and rescue them.

Remarkably, the prisoners were able to leave a trail by piling up three flat stones at intervals across the hill. [When the captors weren't looking? Hmmm!]

At that point I was supposed to run and report the abduction to the Sheriff.I ran to the Sheriff [the neighbor girl] and just stood there like a dummy. I was shy and tongue-tied and didn't know exactly what I was supposed to say. Unperturbed, she saved the day by asking, "Did the Indians capture the girls?" I nodded. "Did they leave markers?" I nodded again. That was the end of my speaking part. Anyway, we immediately gathered a posse composed of the Sheriff and me. The posse, guided by the stone cairns, raced up along the cow paths to the Indian camp. The two-man posse surrounded and disposed of the Indians with our stick guns. The guns must have had silencers on them for instead of "bang, bang" they sounded more like "pshew, pshew". [That is what the Sheriff's gun sounded like, so mine did also]. Of course, we had arrived in the nick of time to save the prisoners from being scalped.

By that time it was beginning to get dark and our parents called us back to the house.

"Chet Stowell Farm"

Picture taken in 1910 from the hill where years later we played Cowboys and Indians. Farm is in foreground, Bouckville beyond.

"Chester Stowell Home 1920's"

"Chester Stowell [left]& Hop Pickers [Bouckville,early 1900's]"

We didn't visit the Stowells very often, but we did occasionally. One time I remember when we were several years older than we were at the time of the cowboy and Indian event, my sister, Alyce, and I spent an afternoon on the farm playing with Bobby. We may have been 10 or 11 years old then.

The haymow in the dairy barn was nearly full of packed down loose hay. They had no balers then. The mow had been filled up to about 10 or 15 feet above the "barn floor". A ladder leaned against the beam along the edge of the mow, and Bobby suggested we climb up and jump off. So we climbed up the ladder, and threw off several big forkfuls of hay. Bobby jumped into the pile and I followed. It was Alyce's turn. She got right to the edge and was afraid to take the last big step. It was a long way down to that little pile of hay. She would try to get up the nerve to follow us and then would back off. Bobby and I climbed back up for a second jump and still she held back. At last Bobby said, "You jump right now or I will push you off!"

He started toward her. She jumped. After that it wasn't as frightening. The second and third jumps came easier.

It was a hot summer day so we went to the milk house for a drink of water. The water came from a spring high up on the hill and supplied the house as well as the barn with clean spring water. It ran a full half-inch pipe by gravity into the watering trough. The ten-gallon cans of milk were kept cool there during the night and then taken to the milk station along with the morning's milk.

The half-inch hose ran continuously 24 hours a day. The overflow made a small stream running toward the barnyard. There one could catch frogs and put them in the trough. There was a peanut butter jar there for drinking, but we decided to see if we could drink the water as fast as it came out of the hose and keep up with the flow.

We dared each other not to let any leak out when we put the end of the hose in our mouth. We would swallow water like mad trying to keep up. We couldn't "go with the flow" for very long. After a few seconds it would be overwhelming and we would have to pull out the hose, of course, getting soaked in the process. Laughing, we would try again. We didn't suffer from thirst for quite a while after that.

The Stowell farm was of about average size and relatively prosperous for the times. [about 100/150 acres] It consisted of some rich valley land with good pasture running up the hillside. The usual crops were grown including hops which was given the best valley land. The dairy herd of about 20 or 25 milkers was fairly large for the times. The dairy barn was modern. The double row of cows faced outward and the barn boasted a new cleaning system. Through the center behind the cows a track had been installed on the ceiling and ran on outside about thirty feet or so into the barnyard. Hanging from the track was a sort of metal basket, which could be lowered to a convenient height for shoveling the cow manure into each morning. When the basket was full, it was pulled along the track into the barnyard, and by unlatching a "catch", dumped on to the manure pile. Many farmers still used wheelbarrows. It was not easy to push a loaded wheelbarrow along a narrow raised platform between the two rows of cow rear ends. Occasionally the wheelbarrow would slip off into the gutter with messy results.

Chet and Bertha had three sons, Lawrence, who was known as "Duffer", stayed on the farm and worked with his father. He didn't marry until later in life, when he married Mary [?], the lady who worked for the Stowells as a maid/housekeeper. At that time Lawrence and Mary moved to Oneida. They had a son named Melvin.

I never saw much of Howard, the second son, as by 1922 he was off to Colgate University to become a civil engineer. I remember seeing Howard once after he had graduated from Colgate in 1926. It was probably in the early 1930's that Howard invited our family to visit him at Gilbert Lake State Park. He and his wife, Jean, lived on the park grounds where he was the engineer, the Project Superintendent with the CCC in the construction of the park.

The work was in progress the day we were there, and Howard was supervising a crew building one of the roads. I remember seeing an old truck pulling a road scraper amid clouds of dust.

He showed us around the park and explained his hopes for continuing development. Pictures and documents for this period are now on display in the CCC Museum at Gilbert Lake Park. Howard worked many years in the State Park System, one of the pioneers in that field, eventually becoming Superintendent of Parks for the Central Region of New York State.

The youngest son, Robert [Bobby], went on to the School of Mines in Rolla, Missouri to become a mining engineer working in both North and South America.

C.E.P. 2004