Man of Mystery, 1886

Carte de Viste

The back of this photograph tells us it’s from the Art Photo and View Company of Skaneateles, and that pretty much dates it as being taken in 1886, because records show that photographer Philip M. Goettel came here from Syracuse in 1886 to open his studio, and by 1887 he was back in Syracuse. But it gives me no hint as to who this handsome subject was.

Bad Neighbor Frank

Frank Barber was not a good son, husband or father. He also failed as a farmer, and to top it off, he was a dangerous neighbor.

In 1897, Frank was married to Katherine “Kittie” Chase, and they had a son, Ernest. In 1906, in the first sign of trouble to make the newspapers, Kittie tried to rent out their front rooms to make a few extra dollars.

By 1910, Kittie and her son were gone for good and Frank was living with his mother, Samantha, on West Genesee Street, in “a small dwelling house” on six acres of land. Frank had sold off his cow (“due to calve on May 1st”) and 20 swarms of bees, and although his property was worth quite a bit, it was apparently in a sad state and it was said the village should either condemn or buy it. The following year, Samantha Barber attempted to rent “The whole or part of my house.”

In 1912, Kittie made her separation from Frank legal. The Syracuse Herald noted:

“Mrs. Kittie Barber was granted a separation from her husband, Frank Barber, it being shown conclusively that he had failed to support his wife and child, with much testimony to the effect that he spent the greater portion of his time in a state of intoxication. The Barbers formerly resided in Skaneateles, and one witness testified that Barber had said he would ‘rot in the penitentiary’ before he would support his wife. Another said that the only time Barber was sober was just before he got up in the morning.”

Not exactly the kind of character references for which you would look to your friends. Two years later, Frank added new luster to his reputation:

“Frank Barber of West Genesee St. was taken to the county penitentiary today by Policeman Edwards, to serve a 60-day sentence pronounced by Justice Glen. Yesterday Barber shot one of a pair of pet rabbits owned by Miss Beatrice Vandergrift of Syracuse, a summer guest at the home of Mr. and Mrs. R.W. Vogt on Griffin St. and, when remonstrated with, threatened to shoot her. He was arrested and confined in the lockup over night, before being arraigned before Justice Glen this morning.”

In 1921, Frank was still living with his mother, and the authorities were stepping in.

“After Frank R. Barber of Skaneateles, the son, had been colorfully painted in open court Friday as a derelict on the sea of life, County Judge William L. Barnum ordered Inheritance Tax Clerk Charles R. Milford Jr. as commissioner, to impanel a sheriff’s jury and to inquire into the mental competency of Mrs. Samantha Barber of Skaneateles, who resides with her son, and whose declining years, it was claimed, has rendered her unable to handle her own affairs.”

The following year, Samantha Barber died, leaving an estate of $4,500, divided between Frank and his sister, Mrs. Dora Horle. For Frank, the money didn’t last. By 1930, he was an inmate in the Cayuga County Almshouse in Sennett, where he died in 1934, his life a cautionary tale to others.

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Sources: “Grand Field Day for Divorces; Eight Hapless Couples Put Asunder,” Syracuse Herald, February 14, 1912; “Threatened Girl with Gun,” Skaneateles Free Press, June 12, 1914; “Jury to Determine Skaneateles Woman’s Mental Competency,” Syracuse Journal, January 1921

The Redfield Cottage, Brookside


Last year I posted this photograph of “Redfield Cottage,” about which I knew nothing, and that, in retrospect, seems unfair. So here is the image again, with a story.

Charles Treadwell Redfield (1837-1923) was the youngest son of Lewis Hamilton Redfield, a pioneering journalist whose statue graces Forman Park in Syracuse. Charles made his mite as a hardware merchant with the firm of McCarthy & Redfield in Syracuse. He was also a prolific inventor of mechanical devices and held many patents. In 1872, Charles married Fanny C. Wynkoop, and they had one son, Robert, born at Glen Haven in 1884.

Charles had a cottage built near the Glen Haven Hotel, and it was completed in the summer of 1886. The family called the cottage “Brookside,” and the Cortland newspaper noted:

“C.T. Redfield, of Syracuse, has leased for 50 years a piece of ground a short distance north of the new [Glen Haven] hotel, and just beyond the little brook which crosses the road, and has built an elegant and convenient modern cottage, at a cost of about $4,000. The cottage is most thoroughly constructed and is designed for a winter as well as a summer residence. The interior is beautifully finished and artistically decorated, and will probably be occupied by Mr. Redfield and his family about July 1st. The cottage is by far the handsomest structure about the Glen, and its location is the choicest that could be selected, its broad piazzas commanding a charming view of the lake. The music of the brook just beside it recalls those lines of Byron:

‘Tis sweet to be awakened by the lark, Or lulled by falling waters,’ *

for if ever there was a soothing sound, it proceeds from this little stream.”

The following summer, Charles had “six or seven men” building a boat house and a boat landing at his cottage. This was vital, as we learn from Sedgwick Smith’s Sailing on Skaneateles Lake (1934):

“Charles T. Redfield, a retired hardware merchant of Syracuse, had taken up his residence at Glen Haven, where he designed and built a number of sail boats of different types. Among these was a yawl about 18 feet long, somewhat like Charles Poor’s Perhaps So, except the ‘dandy’ (mizzen) sail was leg o’ mutton; she was built about 1887. The catamaran White Cat was built about the same time. The Black Cat, however, was a catamaran which Mr. Redfield bought. About 1894 he purchased a 16-foot Atlantic City [Mosquito Class] cat which was reputed to have been the fastest boat at Glen Haven in her day.”

The catamaran that Smith speaks of was probably the Fire Fly. In August of 1898, four young men took it out in heavy weather, in search of adventure, and promptly lost the mast. Fortunately, the Ossahinta had just arrived from Skaneateles, and Charles chartered the vessel to steam out to rescue the boys and his boat. They were safely towed to shore; Charles perhaps had a few soft words of advice for them and the young women who had been watching the drama from the porch of the hotel fawned over the boys as returning heroes.

For the Redfield family, it was nice having a hotel next-door. In 1893, reporter Percival Hine wrote:

“Master ‘Trottie’ Redfield spent his ninth birthday Saturday in royal style. At supper in the evening all the guests at the hotel were served with a birthday cake, presented by his mother, that would tickle the palate of the most confirmed dyspeptic. Master Robert Longstreet Redfield was born at the Glen and has spent the greater part of his life here in the beautiful cottage of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Charles T. Redfield, just north of the sanitarium.”

Such was Mrs. Redfield’s social prominence that in 1894, when she was down with rheumatism, the newspaper printed notices of both her confinement and recovery.

Another newspaper account, in 1899, gives us a glimpse of life inside the cottage:

“Yesterday afternoon Mrs. C.T. Redfield gave a tea at her attractive ‘Brookside’ cottage in honor of her guests, Mrs. Jas. Wynkoop and daughter of Denver, Colo. Cottagers and Glen guests generally were invited, and the company was quite a large one. Mrs. Redfield and Mrs. Wynkoop received, and Miss Wynkoop and Miss W.W. Phelps of Syracuse presided at the punchbowl. Refreshments were served on the cottage veranda. The table was daintily decorated with sweet peas and maiden hair ferns, and a profusion of sunflowers, artistically arranged, gave a novel and striking appearance to the library. Mrs. Redfield’s well known capacity for graceful and generous hospitality was never more happily displayed, and the occasion was made a most delightful one for all who were present.”

Redfield Small 2

Also during the summer of ’99, Mrs. Redfield won first prize in a progressive euchre tournament over at the hotel, bringing home a silver case with its own deck of cards inside.

Charles Redfield lived at the cottage nine months of the year. I would have, too.

In 1911, the City of Syracuse bought the Glen Haven Hotel and 150 acres of land to prevent further development on the lake’s watershed and the contamination of the city’s water supply. Two years later, the hotel, out-buildings and surrounding cottages were torn down and carried away.

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* The quote by Lord Byron (1788-1824) is from the first canto of Don Juan (1819), and here is a bit more of it:

“Tis sweet to know there is an eye will mark
Our coming, and look brighter when we come;
’Tis sweet to be awaken’d by the lark,
Or lull’d by falling waters; sweet the hum
Of bees, the voice of girls, the song of birds,
The lisp of children, and their earliest words.”

Amazing to think of a time when journalists quoted Byron.

 * * *

Thanks to postcard publisher Walter S. Bull, son of one of the last Glen Haven Hotel proprietors, J. Seymour Bull.

Thanks to the amazing Bill Hecht for finding the small photo of “Brookside” in a scrapbook.