‘Odd bits’ history collection number three

The 1887 Fulton County Republican was very progressive in suggesting our supervisors provide the sheriff with a telephone. (Photo courtesy of Peter Betz)

Herewith appears yet another collection of accidently-encountered ‘Odd Bits’ resurrected from journalistic obscurity for our reader’s enjoyment.

On Dec. 6, 1887, the Fulton County Republican announced this breakthrough in modern communication: “The Poor House has been put in telephonic communication with the outside world, and the next step should be placing a telephone in the Sheriff’s Office, as it is just as necessary the sheriff have all facilities possible to aid him in discharging his duties. It would be as much a convenience to the public as to the sheriff.”

The following Sept. 9, 1925 Morning Herald story proves you simply can’t fix stupid.

“An attempt to dislodge an apple from a tree resulted fatally for William Spanfelner, 16, 35 Maple Street, Gloversville. He noticed some apples in a tree and started to knock one down by swinging the butt of his shotgun against it. The safety catch was set, but in some manner, both catch and trigger caught against a twig on the tree. As a result, the shell was fired.”

FJ&G management had something to chew about when the Oct. 10, 1922 Herald reported, “Several boys rifled the gum machines at the FJ&G steam station last night. Night watchman Butler tried to catch the pilferers but was unsuccessful. The machines were emptied.”

Once upon a time there really was a mill on Hales Mills Road. The Oct. 27, 1890 Republican declared, “The excellent quality of buckwheat flour produced by Hale’s Mill has come to be recognized far and near. The mill is taxed to its utmost capacity.” What isn’t?

The May 19, 1926 Republican announced a selfless act of contrition had been performed by a former sinner.

“Hugh Knowles of Northville, former Ku Klux Klan organizer of that village, who last week visited the District Attorney’s office and confessed to an association with a fifteen-year-old girl, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six months in the Onondaga Penitentiary. Knowles’ confession resulted from his religious conversion at a revival meeting, and he declared he “wanted to make himself right with God.”

Returning to the ‘can’t fix stupid’ category, the Dec. 16, 1908 Republican related, “An unusual cause for a fire has been reported in the burning of Fred Heroth’s residence in Stone Arabia. Mr. Heroth was doing some blasting near his home and placed some dynamite in the oven to warm it. The house was blown to pieces. No one was home at the time.”

Valued readers, please learn from this unfortunate example never to warm your cold dynamite in your kitchen stove. Also avoid using your microwave or toaster oven.

For our earliest odd bit, the July 7, 1840 Little Falls Mohawk Courier, under the headline, “A Log Cabin’ Demolished” published this story of old-time political zeal gone wrong.

“A log cabin was raised (constructed) in the Town of Broadalbin Thursday last by the ‘feds’ (Federalists) in honor of Harrison & Tyler. Some 60 attended, and there was literally “great excitement” since hard cider and things even stronger were freely provided. That peaceable, quiet place never experienced such a scene of intemperance as on the few days this log cabin was allowed to stand. After consultations among the more temperate and sober-minded ‘feds’, they determined to remove their log cabin, believing the cause of Harrison and Tyler would be injured if it remained standing. So be it remembered that on the 4th of July 1840, there assembled in the Town of Broadalbin Fulton County some 100 ‘feds’, and in a peaceful and quiet manner, they surrounded the log cabin, tore it from its foundation, and buried it without the honors of war. The log cabin was fairly murdered in infancy.”

When an oil stove caught fire on July 7, 1906, the Canajoharie Courier reported, “An alarm was sent, but it was so close to five o’clock that everybody thought it was the usual weekly alarm test. Flames were smothered with rugs, and the stove heaved into the yard.”

The Dec. 30, 1918 Rome Daily Sentinel noted, “A Geneva man decided not to kill any chickens for Christmas dinner, so his Christmas feast was pork. Meanwhile, Christmas thieves stole every chicken.”

The Sept. 24, 1874 Utica Morning Herald observed, “Charles Sak of Syracuse, the brakeman on Conductor Vedder’s freight train, was killed by falling under the cars at Tribes Hill on Saturday. Brakeman Abercrombie, who was seriously injured at St. Johnsville two weeks ago, was also on Vedder’s crew. Conductor Vedder has had hard luck lately.”

Hamming things up in conclusion, columnist Hugh Donlon, in the May 11, 1944 Amsterdam Recorder, amused readers with this piggish gem.

“During 1943, due to rationing of meat products, Howard DeGraff of Danescara Farms decided to raise pigs on a large scale. District Attorney Charles Tracy was promised a ham. Time having passed, Tracy recently reminded DeGraff he had a ham coming. Yesterday Tracy was informed by telephone that his ham was on the way. Shortly, a pig, ten weeks old, was delivered to Mr. Tracy’s office by a taxi driver, compliments of Mr. DeGraff, harnessed after the manner of a dog and held by a leash. It was temporarily placed in a storeroom while business continued, but it didn’t take kindly to the location, uttering porcine expostulations and reducing storeroom contents to less than useful conditions. The pig has been consigned to the farm of a friend.”


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