HALF ACRE - PAST AND PRESENT
May Ellison Baker Hall
(March 8, 1864 - November 30, 1950)
Most of what I shall write, I remember myself but before 1868 it will be what my Father told me.
There were three Taverns on these four corners one on the West side of the road going South. In 1870 the house went up the South road almost twice as far as it does now and the kitchens were in that part with a huge fireplace in the South end. On the West side an open shed ran from the house to the barn, those sheds were built for the convenience of travelers and towns people who wished to leave their teams comfortable while they refreshed the inner man.
About this time this property was transferred to the Wadsworths. Mrs. David Wadsworth was a Partelow. There were three David Wadsworths and this Miss Partelow was the wife of the first David.
The first family I remember living there was a Mr. and Mrs. Partelow. They had a little boy named Alanson. After that there was John Horton, Robert Westover, James Patrick, Henry Harmon, and Clarence Starr. Mr. Riford bought the place in 1925.
The barn was struck by lightning about the first of September 1901 and burned to the ground, was rebuilt and again burned down in 1941, the 27th of October.
The 9th of November they started digging for the foundation of a building on the vacant lot just across the road west of the brick house. This building is for a pasteurizing plant and a milk bar. The building formerly used in that way was burned when the barn burned.
Mr. Riford built the small house west of their buildings about 1927 and Thomas Staples has lived there since then.
The house on the East side of the South road was almost exactly like the one on the West side when I first remember them, with a shed for four teams running from the house to the East. In 1869 or 1870 West Overhiser lived there. My next recollection of that house was a number of different tenants living there. David Baker and his first wife, Mary Jane Haley. George Jones and his wife. She was David Baker's sister. A family by the name of Cooper, another by the name of Asay...one of his daughters married Dr. Tuxill. A Mr. Rhoads lived there a short time. Carrie LaRowe Brown also lived there one year. Mr. Lyman Thornton and Addie Duncan had rooms there for a few months. Belle Myers and daughter, Maud, lived there two or three years. Dan Martin went there to live in 1915. Rev. Alfred Lees brought his bride there to live. * Then Mr. Riford sold the place to Andrew Lester. About two years later Andrew Lester sold it back to Mr. Riford, who then made an upper apartment for the use of his help. A Mr. and Mrs. Robinson were the first to live in the apartment. Then Lois and Erwin Hibbard and now Mr. and Mrs. Stansbury. They have two sons, both of them in the Service.* I forgot to mention Charles Fisher owned this place before Andrew Lester and lived there when Mr. Fisher died March 28, 1909.
The next house to the East on that side of the road was occupied by Dr. Clapp in 1871 and his son Adelbert was married to Frank Shoemaker in the year 1871. About that time a Mr. and Mrs. Moss lived in this house or the one west of it. James Hobbs bought the place and was living there in 1886. The Aurelius Post Office was kept by them for a few years. Next A. D. Baker bought the place and made quite a number of changes, added the large porch.
Somewhere between this house and the old smithy about 100 years ago  there was a shop where they made sleighs and wagons.
The Blacksmith shop was run for many years by Michael Murray then by his son, John Murray. It was said to be over 150 years old  when it was torn down in 1940 or 1941. Part of it had been torn down for several years. There were living quarters on the South end of the building and Michael Murray lived there till he bought the house of Abbe Hoskins. The Post Office was kept in one of the rooms back of the shop for some time.
The Church I first remember was just a plain nearly square building and was moved here from the crossroad going North just this side of the Harry Baker place [presently the Shady Lawn Home for the Aged]. Where the Church now stands was a cemetery but it must have been much more than a hundred years old for my Father did not remember it, but the head stones were under the old Church one of them still partly standing when I saw them.
You went into a large vestibule entering the old Church and there was a balcony over that where the choir sat. The body of the Church had almost twice the seating capacity that the Church now standing has. There were four rows of pews with doors to each one with a small iron plate on each door with a number on it. I saw the first Christmas tree that I ever saw in that Church.
During the Summer and Fall of 1895 the old Church was torn down and the one now standing was built using all of the timbers from the old building that could be used. The new Church was dedicated Jan. first 1895. There was a debt of 68 dollars and that amount was donated that day so the Church was free from debt.
The House East of the Church Mathius Nickerson owned in 1874. Soon after that he bought a farm on the ridge road and rented this house. My Father rented it in March of 1878 and we lived there while my Father built the buildings on the North side of the road, where he lived the rest of his life. The house was finished and we moved in that Fall. After we left the Nickerson place Charles Westover lived there a while, then Byron Trufant. A little nephew of Byron's lived with them and went to school up at the stone schoolhouse. His name was Beverly Guile. Then Mr. Nickerson sold the place to Thurber Hoskins. They only lived there about a year. He died and Mrs. Hoskins sold to Michael Murray and he sold to William Hawtin about 1920 and Mrs. Hawtin sold to William Wright.
The field East of that place was the old training ground.
On the North side of the road directly opposite the Church was the Westover Tavern. That building was decidedly different from the other two Taverns on the corners. It must have been across the front at least 45 feet with double doors in the middle and a door in the East end of the front that opened into the bar room. A porch floor six feet wide went across the entire front and four large posts went from the floor to the roof which projected to make the roof for the porch. For this Tavern there was a short shed running to the East but not connected with the house, but there being a driveway between the two buildings.
Mrs. Westover (Aunt Betsy) was a tall woman with hair as black as a crow and when I [born 1864] first remember her she looked like an old woman of more than 70 years aside from that black hair. For a good many years the Aurelius Post Office was in the bar room. One corner of the room was separated by a high desk and the wall at the back was made up of small boxes for the mail. There was a door to this little compartment and when Aunt Betsy went in to get the mail she always shut the door behind her and climbed up on a high stool. She was then ready for a visit.
A daughter, Susan Mary, lived with her and I wish I could describe her so you could see her as I can. She always wore a large hoop skirt and a very full dress skirt over it and it did not make any difference what time of day you went in there she always apologized for her looks saying she had not had time to change her dress. They kept Pop to sell and the School boys would go there to get it just to see Susan Mary run. She was afraid of the corks and always set the bottles down on the bar and ran.
They always gave a public party the fourth of July and some time mid Winter. Aunt Betsy' sons Charles, Seymour, and Robert were always on hand to manage everything. The dining room ran from the East to the West side of the house and the table would seat as many as forty people at a time. The ball room was the whole West side second floor. They always had the same music as I remember it. Sam Reynolds was the leader. There was a back stairway up to the ball room and about twelve oclock you would see Susan Mary peeking up at the head of those stairs to count the people to see how many there would be for supper.
Susan Mary died about 1880 and Aunt Betsy went to Auburn to live with her daughter, Mrs. Knox, and the old hotel changed hands. Joseph Hutson bought it and he and his son, Gabe Hutson, lived there several years. Then Sam Rice, who was acting as a rural mail carrier bought it and in a short time it was torn down and half the land sold for a cemetery about 1908.
About 1850 there was a house in the South West corner of what is now the Cemetery and James Johnson lived there.
The Brick house was built by John H. Baker in 1868 and was his home until his death in August of 1901.
The next house on the North side of the road was a story and a half house just one room wide and sixty or seventy feet long. In 1833 Isaac Morgan owned the farm and sold off land for a School house to be built -- and the stone building now standing is the one built at that time. This same Isaac Morgan, Alanson Partelow and Seymour Partelow were the trustees of district No 20. This has been called District No. 9 as long as I can remember. Why it was changed from 20 to 9 I do not know.
The first people I remember as living in that house was Vincent Benham. His wife and little boy Asa lived in the front part of the house after Vincent Benham died and William Greenfield lived in the back part. Mrs. Greenfield's sister, Anna Gildersleeve lived with them. They had a daughter Anna and boy Will.
I think John Baker bought the farm about 1870 or a little later and the house was occupied by a number of different families. Harry Drake and Eunice Mosher Drake lived there one year, a man by the name of Wilson for a short time and Rad Horton and family were there for several years. Mrs. Horton had been a cheese maker and the farmers near here pooled their milk one Summer while she lived there and she made cheese, the best cheese I ever ate.
In 1900 the farm came to F. C. and May E. Hall. At that time Charles Russell worked the place. After he left to work for Mr. Fay, George Norris lived there for several years or until Mrs. Norris died. Will Wright came there then and stayed until he bought a farm on the South road. In 1916 Will Jenner came there and stayed till 1921. John Tripp was the next one to live there from 1921 to 1933, leaving here the 21st of February and the Hildreths came the day John left and they left here the 28th of February 1935. The 21st of March Jim Patterson commenced to wire the house for Electricity. Jim is going to work the farm this coming year. Harold Babbitt's brother is living in the house. He works for Mr. Riford. He did not stay more than six months, then Stanley Pethybridge moved in for a few months. On April 1st, 1936 we signed the papers transferring the farm to Mr. Riford.
Going down the North road to the four corners, the house where Henry Webster now lives was a Tavern and about1874 Mrs. Farnum lived there and her granddaughter, Addie Farnum, taught school in this district for one year.
Going up the South road there was a house on the West side of the road not very much this side of the Goss place. An Irish family by the name of Kennedy lived there. Next place was on the East side of the road and was owned by Michael Goss in about 1865 and is still owned by one of that family.
The next house is on the West side of the road and in about 1860 was owned by a man the neighbors all called Deacon Stringham. Sanford Moreland married Nancy Stringham and they lived there with her father, also another daughter, Harriet Moore and her daughter Steta Moore lived there. Next on the East side of the road in 1863 a man by the name of Smith owned that farm and sold to Andrew Myers only two or three years later. Andrew Myers' second wife was Hiraim Gove's widow and mother of Henry Gove who lives on the place at the present time.
Then across the road and that farm John Shoemaker owned in 1870 and his son George and his wife Ada Wheeler lived there and their daughter Adrian Shoemaker was born and her mother died. George took his baby girl and went home to live, and this place was rented. James Johnson lived there several years then George Shoemaker married Louella Pierce and came back there to live the rest of his life. Louella lived there a few years having a tennant in part of the house to work the place. She sold the place to Fred Ames and he sold to Will Wright who lives there now. Next on the same side of the road is the old Baker Homestead. Allen Baker, my Grandfather bought the farm in or before 1835 and spent the rest of his life there. He died in November of 1874.
His youngest son, Augustus Baker, married Charlotte Durfee and lived for a short time with his Father and Mother then built a small house in the same yard north of the old house. After his Father and Mother died he moved back into the old house and remodeled it, living there for about twenty-two or three years, then came to the Half Acre to live, leaving his son, LeRoy and wife, Nina Sperry, living there for a few years till Leroy and Nina separated.
Then the Deans [Mrs. Dean was Bertha Baker, daughter of Augustus Baker] got the ownership in some way and tenants lived in the house. A family by the name of Tuff, Charles Chapin, Harry Ward. The Deans sold to the Tanners who live there now.
The next place is the stone house my Father helped to build in 1857 and 1858 and Andrew Baker was married to Francis Elderton in October 1858 and went there to live. But his wife did not like it there and they moved to Geneva buying a farm there.
Asa H. Baker was married September 11, 1862 and went there to live, living there until the Spring of 1878 when he sold the farm to Fred W. Baker and moved to the Half Acre. Fred sold to Augustus Baker about two years later. While a Mr. Waby was living in the stone house it caught fire and burned all the wood work off the house and when it was rebuilt it was changed some- what. The west part originally was only one story high and they raised that part to the height of the rest of the house. The fire was in the fall of either 1891 or 1892.
Taking the right hand road at that corner, the house on the hill was another Tavern built by a man by the name of Moore. The bar room in that house was in the basement on the West side of the house and that was considered to be the front of the building because at that time there was a road on that side of the house running from the road as it is now down to the old Hiraim Gove place, I would think, making a four corners there.
On the first floor the hall wide and all across the house and set in the plaster of the side walls just so far apart, and all the same size, were boards in which holes had been bored and heavy wooden pegs driven in for the guests to hang their coats and hats on. Dewitt Clinton, then Governor of New York State, stayed at the Moore Tavern while he was in this vicinity on some business connected with the Erie Canal. This Mr. Moore had two sons and he built the original house where C. J. Shank now lives for one son and the next house to the South for the other son. In the hollow between those two houses before any of them were built there was a log house and a man by the name of Goodrich lived in it and this Mr. Moore stayed with them one winter.
Going East from the Half Acre on the Genesee road, the first house in 1875 was the brick house occupied by John Shoemaker. About 1890 he built the house this side of the brick house intending it for a home for himself and his wife Jane. But before it was quite finished Mrs. Shoemaker died. His grand daughter Adrian kept house for him in the new house until he was taken ill and was taken back to his old brick house to die. One of his daughters, Castilla Durfee, and husband were working the farm at the time.
Soon after Mr. Shoemaker died, the farm was sold to Mr. Brockway, or to Mr. Dunn, Mrs. Brockway's Father. They changed both houses, making a two family house of the brick house and adding to the other house. In 1914 or 1915 the Brockways sold to Guy Powers and the son, Howard Powers, is the present owner.
The house on the South side of the road was another Tavern and when I first remember was owned by James Reed. He lived in Auburn and came out to the farm most every day, driving an old sorrel horse on a phaeton wagon and Halsey Taylor lived on the farm. James Reed was Edwin Fay's uncle and the farm came to Edwin Fay at Mr. Reed's death and the people living there were constantly changing...Charles Russell, Edward Byrne, the Atkins, Harry Ward, Holmes. The barn on this place was struck by lightning in September or October of 1900 and was rebuilt immediately. Mr. Fay died at the age of 100 years seven months and a few days, and the farm was sold to Henry Weeks who died in November of 1944.
Next is a house on the north side of the road, in 1850 or thereabouts a couple of old sea captains bought farms there and built two houses exactly alike only a few rods apart. The one East of the one now standing burned down more than 70 years ago. The name of one man was Cottle but I do not know the others name. Cyrus Baker bought the farms in 1865 and lived there the rest of his life. It was then sold to Charles Elderton and then to H. R. Wait.
The house now standing bears little resemblance to the original house, that had a one story part running to the North nearly to the barns, and was dividend into three parts having big double doors on each part so carriages and even lumber wagons could be kept in them.
Now back on the South side of the road again is a small house that in 1863 was owned by Chester Gridley who was Mrs. Jane Pinckney's Father. A man by the name of Taylor lived there for a good many years. The Goodwins also lived there a number of years. Now the Waits own the place.
Across the road John M. Shoemaker owned that farm for several years. Charles Myers lived there for two years. It is now owned by the Waits.
The next house on the same side of the road Orin H. Mosher owns. On the South side of the road are three new houses owned by Freeman Hollenbeck and two of his Sons. Next on the same side of the road is a small house built a couple years ago. I do not know who owns it.
Next the brick house on the North side of the road was a Tavern years ago. David Baker lived there at one time.
When the house on the South side of the road owned by the Dunnings and occupied by many different people. Will Baker told me that there was a house between the Dunning house and the Railroad that was used as a Tavern being the first one of the nine Taverns between Auburn and Cayuga Lake.
Before 1901 or 1902 the land on the North side of the road West of the Railroad was owned by a Mr. Kerr and there for many years the County Fair was held every Fall.
There were high gates and a small house on the West side of them and a little building on the East side, where they sold the entrance tickets. On the North East corner of the grounds was a building where the people of the County could exhibit their Vegetables, fruits, grains and needlecraft. Out in the center of the grounds there was always some machinery on exhibition, also there was a good trotting track and the horse racing brought more people to the Fair than anything else, I think. In 1901 or 1902 Mr. Metcalf bought the land and began building the plant known as the Columbian Rope Company.
Dan Farrell drove a stage from Montezuma to Auburn and carried the mail for Half Acre.