days were long and sunny on the farm in Calverton in 1891. Winter
days seemed longer yet, but were cozy and snug in the old farm house. There
wasn't much excitement, except for goings on at Brown's Mill, the cranberry
marsh, the Railroad Station, and once in a while a family affair. A death
in the family was a new experience to me. Grandfather Edwards took sick
on a March day. He fell to the floor after eating a hearty dinner, and
they called home his son David Youngs Edwards, my father, who was out ploughing.
In the night Grandfather died. R. C. Brown was sent for, to Brown's Mill,
and he shaved him and laid him out. I was a thin little dark thing, six
years old and nobody took any notice of me, so I saw all that went on.
Grandfather David Edwards was always good to us kids. He was a very strong but gentle man, light and blue-eyed. He'd read to us from the Bible, and tell us stories of long ago, when he shipped his own schooner, loaded with cordwood, to Havestraw, and brought back a cargo of bricks. I was such a wriggler he'd hold me between his knees and crack hickory nuts to keep me quiet. He'd tell us of the wars, Emma (Tryphena) Carter Edwards, wearing her son John's Coast Guard cap. and early days when our family settled in Baiting Hollow, and I wish I could remember it all now.
Sometimes he'd take us on the ox-wagon for the day. We'd go billberrying or to Rock Smith Pond perch fishing, or up to the Manor or down to Riverhead-maybe to order new leather boots for him. Most of the time he went barefoot-he'd walk out of his boots, in the lot wherever he was, the first warm spring day, and go look for them when snow flew the next winter!
Fan and Carrie and Em, my sisters, and I would go thumping along on the loose planks of the wagon, chattering like monkeys. Grandpop sat quiet up front, in his red flannel shirt, dangling his bare feet. Yellow Pear he called one ox, and John Bunyan the other, and once he rode around the race track at the County Fair in Riverhead, with a crowd of fancydressed ladies on the wagon. His was the last team of oxen used in these parts.
But now he was going to be buried; I peeked into the living room to see what was going on, and that was a mistake. Ma saw me, and she said, "Oh Liddy, you're a sight, you stay to home - don't you come to the cemetery or your father will lick you good." "Well," I said to myself, "nobody needs to think I'm going to stay here all alone, licking or not."
I watched Pop help carry the casket through our front door, and Ma and the baby and the twins, Dave and John, and the girls go out, There were neighbors and relatives who lined up behind the casket, and they started walking out the yard and east down the road.
The twins were born in September of '87. In the blizzard of '88 Leza Dayton took canned m i 1 k off his own table and gave them, as Pop couldn't get to the store. James was born in 1889 and George and Blanche and Marguerite were born after Grandfather died. We were a big family, and we older ones loved the old gray house; those were our happy young days. We roamed the woods and cranberry marsh, haunted the mill every chance we got, and walked up to Calverton to school. And best of all, Ma would be sitting in the window waiting for us to come home across the marsh.
Now the procession is out of sight. Around the lilacs, over the myrtle b a n k, and down the road I go. The rest of them had just got in around the burying ground, about three hundred feet out into the lot on the right. I often played here with my sisters. Ma would always say "When my time comes, don't bury me here where the cows can walk all over my grave." At least she had her wish in that--she lies in Good Ground Cemetery in Hampton Bays. As I pattered up to the little group, the first one I came to was Aunt Frances Raynor, who was regular mid-wife for Ma. She scooped me under her big black shawl and held me tight. She was a large woman, and I was safe and snug, and peeked out from under knotted fringe at all that went on.
Everyone 1ooked awfully dressed up and acted so solemn. Even Ma was sad, and I couldn't understand it; we were always laughing and up to some mischief. Aunt Harriet Glover took on and I wondered who w o u 1 d ever have hurt Aunt Harriet. I saw the hole dug for Grandfather, which scared me almost to death, and next to it his father's stone "John Edwards Sr.". This stone was taken away about 1930.
John Edwards Sr. married first Mehetable Terry in 1778, and had children John Jr., James, Roxanna, Bethia and Jerusha. When Mehetable died he married Elizabeth (Bellows) Dayton, widow of Nathaniel, son of Tuttle Dayton. By Nathaniel Dayton she had children Miriam, (later m. John Edwards Jr.) Nathaniel, William, Ruth, Eleazer and Tuttle.
Now together John Edwards Sr. and Elizabeth Bellows Dayton Edwards had only two children, David Sr., of this story, born 1808 and Mary (Polly Ann) who married William Russell. Elizabeth's stone is here too, reading "Elizabeth Edwards, wife of John Edwards. Died Sept. 24, 1859. 77 yrs. 4 mo., 24 da."
Elizabeth herself I never knew much about, but Leonard Bellows of Hampton Bays always said she was a Bellows, marrying Dayton and then Edwards. He said a little hide chest in our family once belonged to her, and she brought it to this country. Many's the time I've seen this little chest, lined with paper in which the s's were f's. It was under mother's bed when she died, and it was then empty, but once Grandpop kept his papers, deeds and such, in it. You're asking what happened to the papers? How would I know -that was a long time ago!
Possibly when he married Elizabeth, Ma said John Edwards sold out in Baiting Hollow and moved onto some 400 acres south of the river, about half a mile west of Brown's Mill here in Calverton. There were already fruit trees and cleared land, she said. First he lived on the east boundary of the property, in the old house, by the old pear tree, on the north side of the road. Then he built two new houses, farther up the road on the south side. Spafford Edwards lived in one in later years. Perhaps at this time a large barn was built on the north side of the road. A forest fire later burned these two houses, and only David rebuilt, this time on the north side.
There was an ancient well out near the barn, so old noone knew who built it, and when one of the y'ones was missing, Pop would run quick and look down the well. This latest house, where I was born, was torn down about 1947, long after we all moved to Good Ground in 1902. When I was eight, I was given out to work for some of mother's people in Eastport, and never lived to home again. When Pop would come by selling oysters, I'd hang on the fence and cry to go home, but it would be just another mouth to feed, and nobody cared.
My Grandfather had married Fanny Young, and had children: Arletta, Joanna, Harriet, Arletta 2nd, and David Youngs Edwards my father. Fanny died early, in 1857, and Elizabeth Dayton Edwards still lived with them and died later the same year. And there was reason enough for Aunt Harriet to cry, for here are not only her mother's stone, but those of Arletta 1st who died in infancy, and Joanna who died aged sixteen, her sisters.
Buried here too is my own brother Edgar, who died an infant in 1875 when he pulled the kerosene lamp over on himself. Ma was out in the barn trying to quiet fighting horses and a drunken hired man. She carried the burned baby in her apron, running screaming all the way to the Mill to people named Payne, but he was already dead, and Ma never really got over it. When Pop came home-he had been off on a boat and left Ma there with her sister and Grandpop - and found his son gone, he went off again for a year on another boat, but finally came home to stay. My Mother did the best she could, and loved us all, but it was a hard life for her, and would be harder with Grandfather gone.
Ma was born Tryphena Carter, daughter of David Carter of East Moriches, and took the name Emma because she hated Tryphena, and who would blame her? She was small and pretty and dignified, but her mother Chary Edwards Carter was a big, stern woman, and we all respected Grandma Carter. She was from the English Edwards Family of Southampton and Easthampton and Sayville; whereas our father's Edwards Family was Welsh, according to Ma, and no relation except by marriage.
Buried here also, they say, were Sabriney Davis, and Phineas Raynor, although there are no stones for them, and Franklin King too is buried here, with a stone, but no-one remembers who he was. There are probably others, all now forgotten. Now Uncle Nat Edwards, Grandpop's nephew by his half-brother John, who was an undertaker from Moriches, said the burying service, and everyone stood around talking quietly until the grave was filled, and then we all walked back up the road to the house.
Aunt Frances kept me right with her until all danger of the licking was past. Folks visited awhile, and then shook hands all around, and the ladies kissed all around, and then they went home. Life returned to its normal slow speed on the farm, and the big day at the Family Burying Ground was over.
This article originally appeared in The Long Island Forum August1971 - no copyright data was posted