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Letter from A.M. Stewart's Daughter, Helen (1913-2000)

August 16, 1997

Dear John,

I'm wondering if there is any way I can help you in your book about your grandfather -- my father. Of course, I know nothing about the Internet. But a few things come to mind, although I'll bet you have got it together. I'm glad you are remembering him. Most -- or too many -- people tended to put him down. He was not enough of a fighter in his defense. But never underestimate the wrath of a quiet man, especially when he thought it was a good cause.

I did help him type up some of his papers but often he took them out to be typed professionally. His handwriting took a great deal of getting used to. Do you have on your record such names as Ritchie (first name I can't recall); George Selden for history; Arthur Parker, Historian of New York State, and of course in the papers you were sent by the Auburn, N.Y. Historian. Edward J. Byrne, Byrne being a popular name in Auburn. There's a Byrne Dairy Store which sells ice cream.

Edward J. Byrne, Father Byrne, as we called him, was a Jesuit, and of course he was most interested in the Jesuit Relations and the Jesuit missionaries who came to this region. (as well as to Canada). I am not sure which library has the Jesuit Relations. I understand they are in 20 volumes. It might be Syracuse University Library or New York State Historical Library. What would be most appropriate would be the fact that they are housed at nearby Le Moyne College, named after Jesuit missionary Simon Le Moyne. The sacred spot where your grandfather and grandmother went to look for Indian relics was Totiakton, an Indian burying ground, or possibly encampment, I think near Victor, N. Y.(? and Gononondqua) or there is a map, which was drawn for your grandfather, about all the Indian village sites. I think your mother has a copy of it. There was a Paul -- name I can't recall -- who dug up Indian artifacts and sometimes helped your grandfather -- but he was not always to be trusted. -- he would sell some of the items he dug up whether they were genuine or not.

Your grandfather (I want to call him "Father" which he was for your mother and me!) Anyway he gave a course in night school at Monroe Jr/Sr High School, on local history. Gordon Wright, to whom I was briefly married, was in the class. Gordon and I went looking for Indian arrowheads but that is not part of this story.

Are you including the part of (OK I'll call him "Father's") life when we lived on the farm off Route 31 near Pittsford? Grandpa Wile, lawyer, (a non-farmer) had bought the 65 acres for father and mother. Father went to agricultural school at Cornell and started milking cows and having pigs and a couple of horses, the first pair of whom dropped dead soon after they were purchased. The pigs were a success -- Father was minister at Penfield Baptist church (he always liked the idea of being a minister) The story goes -- really the truth -- Father was to perform a wedding. He was dressed in his formal ministerial attire, frock coat and tails, when some neighbor yelled "The pigs is out!" and Father had to chase into the cornfield below the pigpen. Trying to get them back with a pail full of food and slops. I don't know if he got to the wedding on time.

Father, when I was 7 years old, and your mother 5, had a boys' camp on the farm, just above Irondequoit Creek. There were 40 boys. Mother had help in the kitchen. She had to cook for all these boys and each week she would bake a layer cake (each week the number of layers would increase). The cake was the prize for the best-kept tent. Parents of the boys on July 4th would bring friends for the display on the field outside the tents. All went well until one summer one of the boys went swimming in the creek, or dove off a tree and was drowned. It got in all the papers, and that was the end of the camp.

After the camp went out of business, Father had to make a living, so he sold life insurance for the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. The number of possible clients ran out. We had moved to 30 Audubon St. after Grandpa and Grandma Wile had died, and Father used an upstairs room for his study. It's about that time (around 1930) when he got involved in local Catholic history and the Jesuits. It was the ministerial part of the Jesuit work that appealed to him. (Personally, I think the Indians' feeling about their universe has something to say for it -- but that has nothing to do with the case). A young fellow came to Father's study to learn about Jesuit and Indian history each week, -- name don't recall, Bob?

World War II came on; the family, your grandmother, mother and I had no income. Were helped somewhat by mother taking care of Aunt Mollie Baum. Father went to work for Huether Bros. who made saws. Father, though a mild mannered man, loved good knives. He used to bring them home. The knives were part of his love for outdoors.

We had a place on our farm near the creek where we had a "Shack" and that is where he liked to retire for picnics and think he was out camping. We called it Pic Nook. He liked to go to Dwight, Ontario, Canada. He loved to paddle a canoe. And to revert too our time on the farm, he, when off duty from Camp Esker used to drive Mother, sister and me all around the countryside and the Finger Lakes. He drank huge cups of coffee! I have his coffee cup.

Father and Mother were devoted to each other. Father had a couple of heart attacks. He got so he couldn't remember how to get back home when he went out for a walk. With much regret on the advice of the doctor, Mother had to put Father in the County Hospital. For a brief time he had been in a nursing home. Mother would go to visit him almost daily. They would hold hands, and he called her "dearie."

I can remember the date he died, 1962. I had been living in Brooklyn, N.Y. and working. I was home from the hospital because of an operation. I had a dream (clairvoyance) that I saw this black theater curtain, and a voice in my dream said "Don't go behind that curtain. Death is there." The next morning I got a telegram -- father had died. As you know, he is buried at Dwight.

John, I hope what information I have given you will help. Of course his life is partly my life, your mother's and yours.

Whichever. Good luck. I'll be looking for you.


Aunt Poonie.

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Last revised 26 April 2000