Before anything else in this conclusion I must admit that despite the gathering of historical documents, and in conversation with a resident of the Village of Green, I continue to be plagued by one simple fact; one document and one conversation identify Henry and Benjamin Birdsall as brothers.
I remain to be convinced of that.
It is documented that Benjamin was raised a Quaker and rejected his creed, therefore his rejection of pacifism. He did this in order to join the Revolutionary Forces. The remainder of Benjamin’s life and continuity of his descendants then holds true; i.e., mutual benefits in all endeavors, “one for all and all for one, no matter the risk”.
If Henry and Benjamin were indeed brothers, then Henry was a Quaker and this would explain the culture he carried and passed on to his kin. Pacifism appears almost as a given. Brotherhood with neighbors and in-laws appears to be a given. BUT, I have no direct proof that Henry was a Quaker. AND, Henry could have been a Quaker without being Benjamin’s brother.
Despite the above facts there appears to be too large of a gap between Henry’s culture and Benjamin’s culture. There is no mention of business or social activities between the two. Henry and his son(s) could not write their names (and therefore it is assumed that they could not read). Benjamin’s sons could read and write. Henry’s family tended to migrate locally and Benjamin’s tended to migrate across the USA. There is no commonality in lawyers names on legal documents of the two. If they were brothers, why would they settle so close to each other and not continue the relationship?
Despite that burning question let us get on with the conclusion. We have sufficient documentation, copies of historical records, excerpts from historical books and theory from archaeological books and articles, and last, a smattering of artifacts.
Louann Wurst, 1999, tells us that “The wealthy farmers were publicly conspicuous in their use of material culture.” I do not see the Henry Birdsalls as being terribly wealthy but they were not terribly poor either. I do not see the Henry Birdsalls as being publicly conspicuous in their material culture. From this I must assume that the Henry Birdsalls were somewhat introverted, and that appears to be born out in their daily work and lives.
They could have easily traded raw unworked stone for a finished “grand monument” in their family cemetery. Their family cemetery is reverent and simple and the stones progress in design as the century progressed in time.
Birdsall Family Cemetery
Wurst (1999) also states that “[wealthy farmers] occupied a highly visible place in the community through their presence in the local “vanity press” histories, the use of large ostentatious gravestones, and the construction of large, costly Greek Revival style homes.”
We have looked at the gravestones and home sites of the Henry Birdsall family and neither are ostentatious. However, in comparison are the gravestones of Benjamin Birdsall’s descendants (see Appendix H, cemetery records and photos), and what you can read about them in the “History of Greene”, or peruse the background of “Maurice Birdsall, banker, [who] obtained plans from I.G.Perry [famous Binghamton, NY architect], and from them built, in 1873, what was the most expensive residence built in the village to that time. It far exceeded the estimated cost of $8,000- – -“, as stated in “Echoes of the Past”, Mildred Folsom, 2nd printing 1991.
A second anomaly of the Henry Birdsall compound is the scattered sheet midden (garbage strewn) in close proximity to the side door of the last existing home on the eastern side of Stillwater Road . This is not what one would expect at the turn of the century (‘1890’s). Yet the artifacts do date to that time. Epinetus is the last Birdsall living in that home.
Newspaper records place his death as occurring on November 28th, 1893 in Preston, NY. The County [Poor] House records show a bill for one “Nathan” Birdsall who died on November 28th, 1893 in Preston, NY as well as a bill dated November 29th, for Two Burial Cases and Outside Boxes, one set for Margaret Hicks and one for Nathan Birdsall.
Aside from the bureaucracy renaming poor Epinetus to “Nathan” it is most likely that Epinetus could no longer take care of himself either physically or mentally while at home. If his mobility was limited he would surely be throwing his garbage out the side door. However, the “Brunswick Pattern” of discards indicates a low percentage of bone; exactly what was found in the scatter pattern found at Epinetus’ house. South (1977) stated that the lack of bone was a conscious decision; bone and other garbage that would attract animals was thrown far away from the home. Was Epinetus more mobile and thoughtful than it would appear or did someone else live in the home after Epinetus?
Sian Jones (1999), writing about ethnicity states “[Textual sources] rather than being taken at face value, – – should be considered in terms of the social and political contexts in which they were produced, the positions and interests of the authors and the audiences – – and the roles that texts play in – – cultural identity”
I hope that these concerns have not only been taken into consideration, but also stated throughout this paper. I would hasten to add that I, the author, should also be questioned as you are reading this material. My vantage point should not be your vantage point. However, I hope that my vantage point has enlightened your knowledge of the Henry Birdsall family.
Sian Jones (1999) has made the point that “Shared habitual dispositions provide a basis for the recognition of commonalties of sentiment and interest, and the perception and communication of cultural affinities and differences, which ethnicity entails.”
Hence, my reason for including the narrative about the friendship between Henry Birdsall and Abram Storms. They, although possibly unconsciously, recognized the similarities and differences in their ethnicity. John Bessac and David D. Davis’ ethnicity would also play a part in this discourse. Henry and Abram would likely “mentally misstep” when attempting to assimilate what they heard and saw about each of the distinct and different ethnic backgrounds of John Bessac and David D. Davis.
Sian Jones reflects these missteps as ” – – taken for granted modes of behavior. Such exposure to the arbitrariness of cultural practices, which had hitherto been taken as self-evident and natural, permits and requires a change in the level of discourse – – -.”
Henry and Abram had to think differently to conceive what Davis and Bessac were ethnically displaying. This was surely a learning experience and possibly some minor cultural adaptations took place on the part of Henry and Abram . . . . . and possibly on Davis and Bessac also.
Cook, Yamin and McCarthy, Historical Archaeology, 1996, state that the term “socioeconomic status – – – appears to have found its way into the discipline [of historical archaeology] without any critical evaluation of its assumptions. Among these is the assumption that social status and economic status are somehow equivalent, or that the two concepts cannot or should not be analyzed separately from one another.”
Obviously I have fallen into that trap as this paper discusses social status, social levels, economic levels and socioeconomic levels all in one section on class and ethnicity. I have attempted to break that section down into subsections describing each of the above. I hope that I have not confused the reader.
That would leave this conclusion with more questions than answers. However, thanks to Wurst’s article on “Internalizing Class”, other methods were made available that give us a sense of who Henry and Benjamin were, whether they gave cultural continuity to their descendants, and the way this continuity played in the face of a farm economy that was changing into a capital economy.
The whole has been broken down into its manageable parts and analyzed.
It is now up to the reader to reassemble those parts back into a whole that tells a story about two families, separated by culture (and possibly not by birth), who each wove their way through life in very different ways. However different, each family left the world in better condition that they found it; and that is our inheritance whether you are a descendant or an unrelated observer, such as I.
THERE WILL BE SIX OR SEVEN MORE POSTS THAT WILL ACT AS THE APPENDICES; Historical documents and photos.
© Copyright – Waldo Tomosky