Melbourne Farm - Time Obliterates and Mary
Hannah Strang's Biscuits
Elizabeth Macaulay's Cook Book 'A Touch of Affection'
The story quoted here is about Melbourne Farm. It was written in 1960 by Lucille Barnes Orth, whose parents both descended down but from different lines - from Daniel L'Strange, French Huguenot, whose son, Daniel, became a large landowner in the Van Cortlandt Manor in 1744.
Her story refers to a farmhouse which is today used as an administration building - a utilitarian housing of desks, telephones, filing cabinets and records. Her story is about the warm human beings who once lived there and it may bring a subtle sense of warmth and a faint echo of "merry" childhood laughter from those plastered walls.
"Time Marches on for Melbourne Farm" she called her article, which she wrote upon learning of a new fate and future, and the report of finding a cannon ball, in reference to her former home. Time marches over the path - from the "grey" cowbarn, filled with Holstein cows of John Barnes, farmer and the milk house where he cooled the milk - up to the kitchen door of the farmhouse, in which his six children were born and raised.
Lucille sent her story to a local daily paper in 1960 and in essence it was printed but the editor - in the manner of editors - rewrote the article. It was factual, less emotional, no doubt, and possibly more erudite for newspaper consumption. Even so, I knew at once, that it could only have been written by one who knew the farm intimately.
Positive enough of my first guess, I sent a letter with a copy of the paper to Lucille, an old-time friend, living in New Jersey with her own family. Exercising the friendly interchange which time and separation had not completely dimmed, I accused her of being the author.
She was found guilty and sent along a copy of her original story, registering some regrets at the editing, but nevertheless grateful that it had been printed also with her picture "which I took in 1919."
"Elizabeth, I just could NOT sit by and know that the story of those valuable events was to be buried forever," she wrote.
I kept her story though those years, as plans for Melbourne Farm unfolded and the 53-acre farm became the Yorktown High School grounds. Perhaps I hoped one day to remind those young people and those who have graduated there, of the former use of the grounds they trod daily - as they crossed the old lane that led down past the barns, the chicken houses and garden plot on to the ice pond at the end of the farm, where once stood a mill - according to Lucille; or to remind those who work in ad use the nineteenth century farmhouse that it once reverberated with happy childhood laughter and farm home activity.
"Time Marches on for Melbourne Farm"
Here is the story in Lucille's own words, with a few deletions for brevity. "The old Home! It has become "The Elementary Curriculum Center'. Already articles suggesting its historical past have found - an example: the cannon ball of Revolutionary days. Now, ideas, plans and blueprints have been drawn up thus assuring a progressive future for this ground, full of history."
Following are other glimpses into the past of Melbourne Farm.
"Let us look over the years. The beautiful acreage on which stands the farmhouse, has a background dating into the middle of the eighteenth century (1744). This property is only a section of the vast allotment that the original title covered. First, there was a grant from the King of England on which was placed the Royal Seal. Parcels of the land were sold to relatives and acquaintances but the most cherished never changed hands.
"On one part of these spacious grounds stood the log cabin in which Captain Henry Strang of the American Revolution lived as a farmer (in the section of York Hill directly across from the John Kibbe home). He (Henry) was born in 1739.... Later, his son (John Hazzard) in 1812 built a fine home known as the Strang Homestead (Kibbe Home). It is still standing across the road from which once was his father. Henry's, dwelling. This parcel, too, was in the original grant.
"A grist mill, at the pond, below the present home - The Elementary Curriculum Center - was in full operation for many years. To the grist mill, farmers for miles around brought their grain to be ground.
"During these days, the first house on the land, later called Melbourne Farm, was small. It was passed on from father to son, and to his daughter and then to her son, the late John Adriance Barnes. However, in 1895 a fine home - the present house - was planned. On the west side of the original building there were added four spacious rooms and a long hall from the entrance to the back. A two-story cupola crowned the front of the house, the lower part of which nestled between the old and the new sections. A small observation space was protected by a little railing. Thus, the whole structure had a dignity all its own (see picture)."A record of these changes at that time and the marriage of the youngest descendant were printed in the Highland Democrat in 1896 (defunct Peekskill newspaper). He (John Barnes) and his bride (Laura Strang) started in the new home, a happy life. Soon afterwards, the property was named Melbourne Farm.
"Then, as time marches on, a few years later, the footsteps and, voices of six merry children could be heard. They chattered, skipped, sang and ran back and forth throughout the dear homestead and over nearly every inch of the beautiful, fertile acres of the farm. The writer's memory still holds these delightful sounds so clear and familiar. 'The orchards, the meadows, the deep tangled wild wood/ And every loved spot, which my infancy knew.' Was true on this worthy place. These were blessings sent from God through sunshine and soft rain. Steadfast work and long patient hours made the thriving farm an important one. A dairy farm of many fine heads of cattle was operated by John A. Barnes for a number of years. The cattle, horses and their fodder were housed and stored in a 90-foot barn erected by him.
"Bess, the faithful white mare seemed to know each stop where her master delivered the wholesome products from the farm. These were carried daily on the milk route to the village.
"The gentle horses, with their master to guide them, played a vital part. The farmer, not too many years ago, depended upon these intelligent animals in preparing the tillable soil for growth and for reaping the harvest. Very capable workers here were (horses) Nell and Kitty (a team), Peggy, the bay, Bess, Jerry and Bill, Florence and Rhodney, white Bess, also Fannie and Bud. Peggy in her later years: Nelly and the Shetland pony were the children's pets for riding and driving.
"...Real young children, older ones and adults of all ages were always welcome at the lovely farmhouse. The very walls echoes with their laughter. Several times grief came to hearts of the occupants (one of these was sister Ada's death in 1921). The family knew that the will of God was not to be questioned. Comfort and understanding from their pastors were the answers. These ministers preached in the First Presbyterian Church of Yorktown. The original building was erected in 1739 on what was later call Crompond Road.
"The loving mother and her devoted sister (Miss Mary Hannah Strang) always made plans to give each of the children a happy childhood. Joyful birthday parties wonderful picnics and gay Christmas holidays were celebrated with the young folks of the countryside attending. In Alfred Tennyson's poem "The Old Home," one reads:
We love the well-loved place
Where first we gazed upon the sky.
The roofs that heard our earliest cry
Will shelter one of stranger race.'
"District #4 was the name of the little gray school house that the children of Yorktown attended...Traveling west it stood just over the hill from the farm. The teacher taught pupils from the first grade through the eighth in the one room...So, today, as progress is made in education upon this acreage full of history, may the memory of the original owners and their descendants be ever sacred. The many young feet of our nation must not be denied that straight path of the better things of this life. For as Jesus said: Suffer the little children and forbid them not to come unto me: for such is the kingdom of Heaven..."
"This essay is lovingly devoted to our precious parents (John and Laura Barnes) and to our beloved aunt (Mary Strang). They devoted themselves to bring love and happiness to their dear ones and all people inside and outside the home. Through their goodness, this is a better world in which we live.
"And it is signed: Mrs. Lucille Barnes Orth - October 1960.
Thus Lucille Barnes gave her blessing on the educational plans for her beloved home and farm land and for the future success of those plans.
And her words sentimental and emotional? Perhaps - one editor thought so apparently. But in the days of our innocence things were like that. Old-fashioned and square? Perhaps. But just what have we given in place of that serenity and childish joy to those young people, who figuratively, walk on the same soil as the Barnes kids? (I won't answer that here.) Anyway, who reads Tennyson, Goldsmith, Longfellow, Eugene Field or vent Walt Whitman - anymore?
A Daughter's Daughter Carried On
Lucille and William Orth had a little girl, Laura Marie - in the days of our friendship, which developed on their visits home to Melbourne Farm. In 1960, I was reminded, by Lucille, that I had made a little girl's dress with gathered sleeves for 4-year Laura Marie, at my home, Greenlawn Farms in Amawalk. Now, in 1960, that little girl, whom I had not seen since, was a young lady going to business. Nevertheless, no years have passed that I had not received an October birthday card from her mother, Lucille. And to may surprise, the daughter continued the practice. Laura Marie' great grief was the loss of her parents only a few years ago.
Laura Marie is now Mrs. Jacob Reichert and although it was a late marriage, she has a little girl of her own. They live in lower New Jersey and pictures of little Laura Lucille's development arrive periodically.
The Reicherts enjoy The Yorktowner, especially the historical articles. For the Strang story (The Yorktowner August 20, 1975 SHE SENT SEVERAL RECIPES AND THE ONE PRINTED HERE IS A BISCUIT FROM Mary Hannah Strang - my great aunt, courtesy of our friend Laura Marie, daughter of my friend Lucille.
Source: The Yorktowner, The Yorktowner, April 20, 1977
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