The
Diaries of Willard Kilts
Of
Fairfield, NY

Transcribed, Compiled and Edited By
Nancy Cioch

Willard Kilts was born 18 August 1863, the third son of Peter and Caroline Keller Kilts. They lived on a farm in Fairfield. His older brothers were Herman born in 1851 and Seymour born in 1855. Sister Marietta was born August 16, 1866 and Carrie was born November 17, 1869.

<-Peter Kilts, Willard's father, born 30 August 1822, died August 16, 1885, married Caroline Keller on June 13, 1850.

Peter and Caroline felt that education was important for their children and supported the local school, which was built just down the main road from their house. Since Herman and Seymour were older and helping on the farm, Willard completed his schooling and took over the teaching of the younger children at the school. He taught from 1888 1889 when a new teacher took over.

Willard in 1883 worked as a clerk in a grocery store at 38 Fayette Street in Utica. When his sister Marietta married Henry A. Crofoot March 4, 1885, they moved to Utica also. The Crofoot residence was at 87 Howard Avenue and Crofoot started his own business. "Yankee" at 30 Fayette Street, Utica, New York sold groceries, fruits, flour, cigars, canned goods, fine butter and cheese & c. No doubt the fine butter and cheese was produced at the Kilts farm in Fairfield.

Peter Kilts bought a farm for Seymour in Cortland, New York. Seymour moved there with his wife Margaret Bauder. Herman went to visit them and bought a piece of property and intended to build a house on it.

Herman was helping his father on the home farm and as the eldest son took over the business when their father Peter died on August 16, 1885. Willard also went home at that time. Willard helped Herman operate the butter and cheese business at home and also helped with the school.

<-Caroline Keller Kilts, Peter's wife and Willard's mother, born July 27, 1831, died November 5, 1924.

In 1888, Seymour sent a letter to Willard asking him to come to Cortland for the summer to help him build a new barn. As soon as the school term ended, Willard started for Cortland. He started out on Saturday, June 2, 1888. Since he had never been there before, he didn't know how far it was. He drove a team of colts hitched to a platform wagon loaded with his things that he wanted to take. He arrived on Monday at 12:30. He stayed until August.

Herman died October 9, 1891. He fell in the Erie Canal and drowned. Herman and William A Goodell were on their way home after stopping at a local saloon. The night was very dark and there was a heavy fog. The wheel broke off their buggy and frightened the horse, which was blind in one eye. At about the curve by "Profile Rock" the horse, buggy and occupants went into the canal. Neither Herman nor Goodell could swim. Herman's body was found by the lock tender later that night. The horse's remains were found still attached to the buggy. The next morning the water level in the lock was lowered and Goodell's body was found by Chief Harris.

Now it fell upon Willard's shoulders to take over the farming business, to settle his father's estate and also his brother Herman's. With Willard's knowledge of good business, his education, and desire to be successful, he improved the Cheese and Butter business and kept detailed records of that business in his diaries. They are a wealth of information about life on a successful farm in the 1890's.


Children of Peter and Caroline Keller Kilts:

Herman born June 3, 1851, drowned in Erie Canal near Little Falls, Oct 9, 1891.
Seymour Kilts born July 25, 1855, died June 11, 1905, married Maggie Bauder on April 10, 1878.
Willard F. Kilts born August 18, 1863, died January 6, 1899, married Cora Bellinger on Feb 10, 1892. Cora died August 11, 1956.
Marietta Kilts born August 16, 1866, died March, 11 1937, married March 4, 1885 Henry Alexander Crofoot who was born March 4, 1863 and died November 9, 1925.
Carrie Kilts born November 17, 1869, died August 2, 1939, married James Walton Thompson on September 10, 1893. James was born April 23, 1864 and died January 7, 1920.

Return to the Opening Page of Willard Kilts' Diary

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