I, Epinetus, repeated to George Park, Esquire, a portion of my grandfather’s last will and testament; as follows:
“I Henry Birdsall, in the sight of the Almighty God, bequeath to my loving wife, Abashaby, above and beyond that which the state requires, one good cow.”
That is what Grandfather Henry said, that is what Grandfather Henry meant, and that is what Grandfather Henry signed with his “X.”
Grandfather could not write. Esquire James Burroughs wrote the will for him. Miss Ann Burroughs, the Esquires daughter, acted as a witness. Both the Esquire and his daughter signed the document. Simon Terwilliger rowed his boat across the Chenango River. He also signed.
All of my aunts were present for the signing of Grandfathers last will and testament. After the Burroughs departed the aunts gathered in the kitchen. I can remember Aunt Polly saying “what is the world coming to? – – – – Imagine, a woman signing papers! My heavens, what will we see next?”
That question could not have been more perfectly timed. The year that Grandfather signed his Last Will and Testament was 1836, just one year before the Chenango Canal in New York State would open. The canal’s two terminal points were Utica on the north end and Binghamton on the south; with several villages along the path.
Aunt Polly’s question “What will we see next?” could have been answered with the words “Thievery, bribery, uprisings, murder, suicide and fornication”; and not necessarily in that order. However, because Grandfather had raised us in the Quaker way we could not possibly have imagined what the canal would be bringing to our very doorstep. And if we could have imagined all those acts, against God and Man, we would not have voiced it. Not in front of grandmother Abashaby, Uncle Henry, my father Horace or any of the seven aunts.
After Grandfather passed away Uncle Henry made his mark above his name on the death certificate. Esquire Burroughs was the person who wrote and signed Uncle Henry’s name for him.
Forgive me please! I do get ahead of myself these days. It seems as though I have been living here at the county poor house for years. What year did you say it is? – – – “1893!!” – – – Thank you, I keep forgetting. That means that I have been living here in Preston Manor for over five years! Where was I – – – Oh yes – – – I was talking about the canal that cut through our front yard. That is another story that we could talk about some other time; some later visit perhaps.
Please, again, tell me why you are here. – – – Do I remember Jean Guilliame DeBesse? In a way I do. I can tell you about him but my memory needs some energy to get that far. I really do have to start at the beginning. Otherwise I will forget half of what I should be telling you. There are so many memories that surround the area that Jean Guilliame lived in – – – – I must collect my facts about the neighbors in order to be sure I did not forget anything.
Your name again sir was Park? – – – – George Park. – – – I think I can remember that. Oh. – – – Esquire George Park. I see. – – – – Ahem.