Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys


A Family History donated by: Harry Windecker

Interesting connections to the past. Erzelia Christman's lineage is of two-fold interest in that her Christman ancestor arrived on the same ship as Hartman Windecker, and her maternal grandmother, Susanna Cole, can be traced to the Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts.

Erzelia is the daughter of Zimri Christman (b. 1811) and Susanna Folts (b. 1809). Erzelia is the granddaughter of Jacob Christman (b. 1785) and Rebecca Smith (b. 1783), and the great granddaughter of John Christman (b. 1747) and Catherine Hilts (b. 1746). John Christman's father, Johannes (b. 1668) and wife, Anna Gutrau (b. 1678) sailed from England in 1710 on the Hartwell with Hartman Windecker, and moved with Hartman in 1716 to Schoharie, New York, and later, to the Mohawk Valley.

Susanna Folts is the daughter of Conrad Folts (b.1783) and Susanna Cole (b. 1782). The Cole lineage can be traced to Plymouth Colony via the following: Susanna Cole, daughter of Esau Cole (b. 1731/32) and Mary Chase (b. 1744); granddaughter of Seth Cole (b. 1708) and Experience Luther; great granddaughter of John Cole (b. 1672) and Mary Lewis (b. 1673); and great great granddaughter of John Cole (b. 1637 in Plymouth, MA) and Elizabeth Rider (b. 1646 in Plymouth). Elizabeth Rider is the daughter of Samuel Rider (b. 1630 in Plymouth) and Sarah Bartlett (b. 1639 in Plymouth). Sarah Bartlett is the daughter of Robert Bartlett (b. 1603 in England) and Mary Warren (b. 1605 in England). Mary came to America on the ship "Anne" with her four sisters and her mother, Elizabeth (b. 1583, England). Her father, Richard Warren (b. 1580, England) preceded the rest of his family arriving in America on the "Mayflower" and had Thanksgiving Dinner with the Native American Indians, as the story goes.

More recent history.

Our great grandfather, Elmer married Ella Powers (1860-1917) of Clyde New York and had three children, Maude, born 1886, died, 1894; Mabel Gladys, born 1889, died 1946, and Edith Elizabeth Farrington, our grandmother, born 1897, died, 1981. Maude died in a tragic home fire, as she was attempting to light a lamp, while her parents were at the barn, milking. This farm was located about five-miles northwest of the current Windecker-Farrington farm, and is described, below as the "Other Place". Elmer Farrington and family occupied the current farm, about 1903. It is suspected that this was possibly the former property of Amos Farrington, Jr., who departed the area for Wisconsin

The Schuyler Centennial Cheese Factory was up the road and across from this farm, and the stream traversing the farm was known as Cheese Factory Creek. A cold spring, where milk was stored for the cheese factory, was located nearby on property formerly owned by Glenn Upson and currently, by our cousin, Dale Windecker. The grounds housing the cheese factory, is probably the property currently occupied by Dan and Karen (Robinson) Hughes.

In 1927, Elmer (known to Helen as the "Old Gent") married Sophia Northard Sheaf. She was born March 20, 1863 and died February 1933. Elmer died in Herkimer, April 4, 1938. The Farrington farm and his home in Herkimer were left to our grandmother, Edith Elizabeth.

E. Elizabeth Farrington married our grandfather, Harry Newkirk Windecker on August 22, 1916 and raised four children, Helen, born March 6, 1917; Harold Farrington, born September 15, 1920; Agnes Shirley, born November 7, 1927; and Leroy Willard, born May 2, 1931.

Harry Newkirk Windecker came from Amsterdam and Manheim, New York. He graduated with honors from Little Falls High School in 1912. He worked on the Farrington farm ("the farm") for a few years, fell in love with our grandmother, and bought a farm of his own, immediately to the north. He later sold that to Mr. Van Pelt.

Grandma and grandpa also owned a farm about five miles to the northwest (described earlier as Farrington property). As a boy, working on the farm during the summer, that other farm was known as the "Other Place", and we farmed that also. The "Other Place" and the Van Pelt farm were recently part of the Cogar Estate. Our grandfather was a progressive farmer, and served in the 1950s as a county conservation agent. He was also a great, but subtle teacher, as Uncle Leroy and I won prizes as a result of a Herkimer County land judging contest conducted in the 1950s.

Across the road from "the farm" is a farm owned earlier by Glenn (Dee) Upson, acquired upon his marriage to Mabel Gladys Farrington (our grandmother's sister). Elmer gave one farm to Edith Elizabeth, and the other to Mabel Gladys. More recently, this farm was the property of Ted and Mabel Robinson (Dee and Mabel's daughter). I used to go over there and play with my second cousins, Sherry and Karen Robinson. The girls were apparently too rough for me, as I broke my collarbone there, at age seven. (Actually, I fell down a small embankment and landed in the stone driveway on my shoulder). The farm and house is currently owned and occupied by Dale Windecker, his wife, Debbie and their two (current count) children. Thus, much of Elmer Farrington's former land is again consolidated under the ownership of one family.

Harold was also known as "Sam" and received this nickname as a result of our grandfather's relationship with a traveling vendor of fresh vegetables and other wares. Sam, the peddler, and grandpa became close friends, and as a result Sam named his first-born son, Harry, in honor of our grandfather. Our father was already named Harold, but received the nickname, Sam, as a result. Sam was known as a fun loving "crazy sort of guy" and got into his share of trouble. His cousin, Floyd (Buck) Upson, across the road were great friends and pranksters. Rather than walk, they would drive across the road to each other's house. My uncle, Fred Hyer (Helen's husband), and Sam were also great friends, and practical jokers, practicing the "art" of passing each other on the wrong side of the road and driving while lying on the seat, using telephone poles as a guide. Not me! I never did anything like that!

"Life on the farm was kinda' laid back…" if working two-eight-hour shifts in a day is "laid back". During the summer, if it was daylight, you worked! This was both for the haying season and harvesting oats or corn, later in the season. I was a summer-time farmer. After school was out, starting in the mid-1940s, until I started college, I typically went to upstate New York to work on the farm, helping with the haying season, and as time permitted, harvesting the oats. In the '40s there was a lot of manual work associated with farming. (There still is!) We gathered the hay with a hay loader, pulled behind a wagon, initially, by a team of horses, and/or with the 1939 (crank start) Farmall "A". Although I turned hay by hand ifn' it got wet, my initial job was retrieving the "rope". When the loose hay arrived at the barn, it had to be elevated to the hay mow using a fork, set into the hay on the wagon. Grandma would drive the tractor that pulled the rope, which lofted the fork full of hay to the haymow. I would retrieve the rope, when she backed up. At this time, several of the cows were still milked by hand, and we had "grade" Holstein cows.

Before I was born, my father, Harold (Sam), more or less forced the issue of buying the "A", as he demonstrated the propensity of the tractor to tip over. A Farmall "A" has the engine mounted on one side for better driver vision of the crops. Sam capably demonstrated the tractor's shortcoming, with the engine side downhill, and making an abrupt turn uphill. Yup, it rolled over. Dad jumped clear, as my existence attests.

During the grain-harvesting season, my uncle Elmer (Ted) Upson would custom combine the oats with his John Deere riding combine, pulled by his Oliver tractor. I got the privilege of riding the combine, bagging the oats, and pushing the bags to a chute, where the bags could be dumped in clusters for later pick up with a wagon. I received an early education in operating the tractor, during the bag-collection operation. I drove the Farmall "A" and Roy loaded the bags on the wagon. We were going downhill, when Roy told me to stop! I "threw-out" the clutch, as I had been taught, but the tractor speeded up. Roy screamed step on the brakes! I asked, "What are the brakes?" I ended up by stalling the tractor, which was very hard to start, when warm. Roy, then, taught me the use of "very special words", which I still use today. I received instruction as to what those other pedals were on the tractor, and we proceeded. During the previous few years, we were mostly on level ground (contour farming), and I was instructed to disengage the clutch to stop. The tractor would roll to a stop. To this day, I only use brakes as a last resort!

As I grew older, we graduated to custom bailing. My uncle Ted would come up with his Oliver tractor and New Holland hay bailer, and drop the hay bails on the ground. We had the enviable job of loading them on the wagon, taking them to the barn and unloading via a bail elevator. Later, in 1954, we had out own Oliver 77 and hay bailer. I road the wagon, which was towed behind the bailer and loaded the hay, as my lazy uncle Roy, drove. When we got to the barn, however, I unloaded, and my uncle became very un-lazy, and worked in the hot, humid, haymow, on the receiving end of the hay bales.
Although many other farm stories could be told, back to some more genealogy!

Christmas. Christmas was a fun time and time for visiting our grandparents and other relatives. Living in New Jersey, we would travel north, the two-hundred or so miles to the Mohawk Valley to spend Christmas with our grandparents, cousins and other relatives. Before the invention of the New York Thruway, we took many routes to get there. One that comes to mind, and part of which we still might use is taking highways 32 at Saugerties to 23 to 145 to 20 to 28 and down Vickerman Hill into the Mohawk Valley. Not knowing at the time, that this route went through Schoharie County, within about ten miles from Hartman's dorf and not unlike a possible route that the early Palatines took from the Hudson Tar Camps to their villages in Schoharie County.

Christmas Eve was spent with our grandparents at the farm. Also attending were our aunts, uncles and in later years, our younger cousins. My sisters and I might look out the north window of the kitchen trying to spot Santa Claus. Sometimes, we did! As in many farmhouses, the kitchen was the center of most social activities at the farm. It had a wood-burning stove for heating and cooking, a sitting area and an eating area. The family gathered there, awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus. At about 10:00 Santa would come, down the chimney and out the pot-bellied stove into the Living Room. Grandma would go into the living room to help Santa, and interestingly, other adults would occasionally disappear outdoors for a short amount of time, during this activity. Eventually Santa and grandma would be finished and we could then enter the living room to behold a room full of presents. Typically, grandma would pass out the presents.

The rationale for Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day, as explained to us kids, was that we are further north than New Jersey, therefore, Santa comes earlier! Gifts were opened, and then it was off to bed, as the cows would not be patient for a late milking the next morning.

The next day, we would head down into the Valley, to Frankfort, to have Christmas with our other grandparents and relatives on my mother's side.

We happened! Harold (Sam) Farrington Windecker married Florence Alice Rowell, February 8, 1940. Sam and Flo (Harold and Florence) had three children Harry Leroy (me), born in Ilion, New York on March 31, 1940; Susan Elizabeth, born in Ilion, March 24, 1945; the family then moved to New Jersey in 1946 and Marilyn Helen, was born in East Orange on May 1, 1948. Flo and Sam divorced in 1967, and he remarried that year, to Elaine Smith- Magee. Harold and Elaine had one child, Christopher, on September 1, 1970. Florence married Frank Riehl in 1970 and was later divorced. Both parents died unmarried. Harold is buried in a military cemetery in Jackson, New Jersey, and is credited with a "Purple Heart" received during World War II. He took a hospital ship, the Queen Mary, back from the European Theater. Florence is buried in Jordanville, New York, beside her parents.

A brief history of the Rowell and Mason families, ancestors of our mother, Florence A. Rowell, follows.

Copyright 2001. Harry Windecker. All rights reserved.

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