Tag: Ilion NY

July 4th – It’s the Least I can do …

Growing up, my family used to spend several weeks every summer at Raquette Lake in upstate New York. We started out camping at Golden Beach Campground. I was 6 months old on my first camping trip. Later we purchased a lot in Burketown, essentially a marina and restaurant on the south bay of the lake. Lots had also been purchased by both sets of grandparents and a great uncle. Many of the other lots were bought up by other employees of Remington Arms Co. of Ilion, NY. So, on our sandy dirt road, almost every knew everyone. Summers at Raquette Lake were almost always a large friend and family get together.

We would typically go to the lake in late July or early August to avoid the black flies and the worst of the mosquito season. One year, for some reason, we had gone earlier, and we’re going to be at the lake for the fireworks on the Fourth of July. I was maybe twelve years old or so. We drove down to watch the fireworks at Old Forge, NY; about twenty minutes south of Raquette Lake on Route 28.

I’m not completely sure who was there. I know myself, my brother, and my Mom and Dad were there. And my Nanny and Grandpa Klippel were certainly there, because my Grandfather is the key figure in this tale. I do remember others being there and suspect my Aunt Carol and maybe my Uncle Ken were there. Grandma and Grandpa Gilbert may have been there, as well as various other cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.

We had found a spot to sit on the hill overlooking Old Forge Lake, or Fourth Lake (being the fourth lake in the Fulton Chain). It is not a particularly large lake; really more like a rather big pond. We were sitting there talking and waiting for the fireworks to begin when it began to cloud up and look like it was going to rain. I remember people trying to figure out if the fireworks would be canceled if it rained. The consensus was that it would depend on how hard it did rain, which seemed fair enough.

Once it got dark enough, the fireworks began. It was positively glorious. However, very shortly thereafter, the rain began as well. I remember being so disappointed as people began getting up to leave. My family, too, was getting ready to leave; everyone that is, except my Grandfather Klippel. He remained seated and simply took his handkerchief out and put it over his head. We had been hurrying to the car, but I had stopped and looked back. I watched as my Grandfather took the handkerchief, which by now had become soaked, and wring it out and place it back on his head. I was stunned, What was he doing? Even at that age, I knew my Grandfather was a bit of a character, but this was like nothing I had seen before. I walked back to where he was sitting.

“Grandpa, what are you doing? It’s raining.” It was actually raining quite hard by then.

“Well,” Grandpa replied, “if our ancestors could fight a war for this country and our freedom, the least I can do is sit through a little rain to thank them for doing so.”

That statement struck me, and I sat down next to my Grandfather. He asked me if I wanted the handkerchief, but I shook my head. It was too much fun watching him periodically wring it out and put it back on his head. We sat there together waiting for the rain to stop.

To be honest, I don’t remember if the rain ever did stop, or if the fireworks were canceled. I just remember sitting there in the rain, being proud as hell, and watching my grandfather once more wring the water out of his handkerchief, and place it back on his head.

Happy Fourth of July!

Rockin’ Through the Decades

History is often where you find it, sometimes even in old rocking chairs!

The story of this rocking chair essentially begins with the Barringer family for whom Barringer Road in Ilion, NY is named. The Barringers were one of Ilion’s wealthier families and lived in a mansion in the village of Ilion. They also owned a dairy farm out on Barringer Road. I assume the road was named Barringer Road because of the farm. However, the Barringers were not farmers, so they hired a family to live on the farm and work it. My great grandparents, Irving and Kathryn Klippel, worked that farm for years.

In fact, during the depression, my great-grandfather, Irving Klippel, would save the butter milk left over from the process of making butter, and try to deliver it for free to poorer families in Ilion with young children. While some would thankfully accept it, others would not. Since it was essentially a by-product and was often fed to pigs, many were scared to give it to their children, which was too bad.

My grandfather, Erwin Klippel and his brother, Wagner, helped work the farm for many years. After my grandfather married Eileen Gardinier, they moved into a tiny house farther down Barringer Rd, and he eventually went to work for Remington Arms because he wanted a more steady paycheck to support his family than working the farm provided.

My great grandmother, Kathryn Klippel, received several pieces of furniture from the Barringers including a very nice hand-carved oak bed and dresser which my brother, Dan, has in a guest bedroom to this day (The few times I have slept in it over the years, I had to sleep diagonally across it, because, back in the day, people were a lot shorter. Another piece of furniture given to Kathryn Klippel by the Barringers was this old Queen Anne rocking chair.

A historic home

The house my Grandparents moved into on Barringer Rd was built in the 1700s, and survived the Revolutionary War. It was tiny but we still had many great family gatherings there for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We all got quite adept at maneuvering through tight, crowded areas. I remember fighting for a spot on the couch to watch football games with my grandfather. This was when I became a Vikings fan … it was the Fran Tarkington era!

This is a relatively current picture of the house, but it hasn’t changed much. My Grandfather and his brother, Great Uncle Wagner, rebuilt the stone fireplace with stones they hauled back from the Ilion Gorge. And back then, most of the houses currently found on Barringer Rd were not there. When my mother was a little girl and growing up there, it was surrounded by woods, fields, and a pond they would skate on on the winter when it froze over. When I came along and got old enough, we used to ride snowmobiles in the fields behind the house.

You can’t tell because of the tree, but the only real difference in the house today, is that there was once an old wooden “fan” pattern decoration over the front door that also dated back to the American Revolution. It was taken down by the family who purchased this house from my grandparents. I am sure by then it was pretty-well rotted and needed to come down. It is still a bit sad.

The Old Rocker

My mother always told me that my Aunt Carol once rocked me to sleep in this rocker when I was a baby. I guess Aunt Carol would have been in her teens at the time.

Years later, I held my very first baby in my arms, sitting in that very same rocking chair. I was maybe 10-or-12-years old at the time, and the baby was Aunt Carol’s daughter; my cousin Kristine.

This picture was taken in my grandparents house on Barringer Rd. I still remember the old rocking chair with this fabric. Over the years, it has been reupholstered a few times. I seem to remember a blue and gold pattern, maybe a red velvet, and the floral print it currently has.

The foot stool doesn’t match the rocking chair. I vaguely remember a foot stool that did go with the rocking chair, but I have no idea what became of it. The foot stool that is currently used with the rocking chair was made by my great Grandfather Gilbert, my father’s grandfather. But, that is a story for another day.

So, here you go, Joy. Just for you. One more picture of the rocking chair. And this time, I am smiling!

Ilion, NY: The Klippels, the Gardiniers, the Gilberts, and Remington Arms

Early Mohawk Valley settlers

The region of New York where Ilion is located was first settled by Palatine Germans under the Burnetsfield Patent about 1725. The first settlers took plots along Steele Creek, which flows through what is now known as the Ilion Gorge and into the Mohawk River.

The Battle of Oriskany in the Mohawk Valley was one of the bloodiest battles fought in the American Revolution and was a major engagement during British General John Burgoyne’s Saratoga campaign. If you have read the novel, Drums Along the Mohawk, by Walter D Edmonds, you may be familiar with a character named, “Mad” Jacob Gardinier.

Being essentially historical fiction, there are many “real” historic characters in the story including General Nicholas Herkimer, Adam Helmer, William Caldwell, and yes, Jacob Gardinier.

“Mad” Jacob Gardinier was born on February 7, 1727 at Kinderhook, NY. He married Dirkji Vanderwerken from Albany, NY. They are buried in the Maple Avenue Cemetery in Fultonville, NY.

Jacob Gardinier served as a First Lieutenant in the Third Regiment of the Albany County Militia in 1768. In August of 1775, he was appointed Captain of the First Company, Third Battalion of Tyron County Militia, and was wounded at the Battle of Oriskany. Jacob Gardinier resigned his commission on March 26, 1787.

He died in 1808, but if alive today he would, I guess, be my great, great, great grandfather.

The Village of Ilion

The small village of Ilion began to grow in 1816 when Eliphalet Remington created his first flint-lock rifle. A blacksmith by trade, he built the rifle using a firing mechanism he purchased from a gunsmith and a rifle barrel he forged himself. The rifle was so popular he started producing them in quantity. This enterprise developed into what later became the Remington Arms manufacturing company. 

Ilion continued to grow after the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, which provided a trade connection to exchange products with Albany and the Great Lakes region. By 1850, the Village of Ilion had grown to a population of 812, not counting livestock.

Klippels and Gardiniers

William J Gardinier, circa 1904

William J Gardinier was born in the Town of Danube in 1870. He was a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Cornell University in 1893, and was admitted to the bar in 1895. He married Minnie Lee of Herkimer in 1896 and went on to become a lawyer of some note, practicing law in Herkimer until he retired in 1963. William Gardiner had two sons, Russell and Elton, and a daughter, Eileen. who later married Erwin Klippel and became my grandmother.

The Klippel Saw Mill and the Lumber Yard on Elm Street.

Klippel Family Homestead on Litchfield Rd, circa 1890
Irving Klippel is on the horse

The Klippels immigrated here from Germany in the mid-to late 1800s. I know early members of the Klippel side of my family ran a sawmill in the Ilion Gorge and other members ran a lumber yard in Ilion on Elm Street.

Ilion Gorge, circa 1915
Front: Irving and Erwin Klippel
Back: Kathryn and Wagner Klippel

Erwin Klippel married Eileen Gardinier, mentioned above. They had three children, Kenneth Klippel, Ardis Klippel (Gilbert, my mother), and Carol Klippel (Piser)

The Lumber Yard, circa 1914
One of Ilion’s thriving industries

The lumber yard was started by Conrad Klipple. I am not sure when and where the spelling of the name Klipple switched to Klippel, but I do remember, as a young boy, hearing discussions about some branch of the family spelling it that way.

Arriving in Ilion in the 1890s, Conrad Klipple first established himself as a skilled carpenter, before expanding into the lumber business. The house where Conrad Klipple resided was at 64 Elm Street, and it still stands to this day. According to a 1925 map of Ilion, the office building for the lumber yard was located at 66 Elm Street; directly behind Klippleā€™s house.

The Klippels, the Gilberts, and Remington Arms

My grandfather, Erwin Klippel worked at Remington Arms as a gun assembler, and if memory servers me correctly, he built the prototype for the Remington Model 1100 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun. His wife, Eileen (Gardinier) Klippel, worked as the Secretary and Treasurer for Ilion High School for many years.

Erwin and Eileen Klippel, circa 1934

His older brother, Wagner Klippel, worked at Remington Rand, just across the street. “The Rand” as it was called made mechanical calculators. In the 1950s, they built the first real digital computer. It used radio tubes, (triodes), for its processing and memory systems. My dad didn’t see the computer, but he saw the truck they used to transport it – a huge 18 wheeler. However, one of Great Uncle Wagner’s sons, Bob Klippel, did work for Remington Arms as well.

On the Gilbert side of the family, both my Grandmother and Grandfather worked for Remington Arms. Marjorie (Widmer) Gilbert was the customer service representative for the custom-built division of Remington Arms for many years. So, if you had a custom-built Remington rifle or shotgun, and you had dealings with customer services during the 50s or 60s, you probably dealt with her.

Bernell and Marjorie Gilbert, circa 1940
Steuben Rd, Herkimer, NY

My Grandfather, Bernell Henry Gilbert, served in Japan with General MacArthur during World War II. After returning from Japan, he eventually ended up at Remington Arms, heading the shipping and logistics department for many years.

As a final note, I have a wonderful collection of letters written between my Grandmother and Grandfather Gilbert while he was serving in the Army. I will soon be working on a novel based on those letters.

The Wisdom of Grandfathers

Something that I think we are in danger of losing as our society turns more toward social media and texting for communication is talking to and gaining wisdom from those who came before us.

Erwin Klippel

My Grandfather Klippel was a pretty handy guy. He worked for Remington Arms in Ilion, NY, as a gun assembler, and if memory servers me correctly, he built the prototype for the Remington Model 1100 12-gauge semi-automatic shotgun.

As a young man, he’d gone out west to study to be an airplane engine mechanic, but unfortunately, had to give that up to come home and help on his family’s farm. But he could build a camp, drive a truck, pour concrete, raise chickens, or tell you where to dig your well. And he had an endless supply of witty, often whimsical comments and stories to tell.

He played semi-pro football, and I understand he was also quite a dancer and rode an old Indian motorcycle around, at least until he met my Grandmother. He also taught me how to split wood with an ax, which incidentally helped me to embarrass a lot of bigger and stronger guys when it came to ringing the bell with a big hammer at state fairs. Looking back, I am glad they didn’t get too upset by that!

But, most importantly, he had a lot of wisdom and was always willing to share.

Never a borrower be, but …

One of my favorite stories my mother shared with me about her father involves a rusty old saw.

When my mother was a little girl, she was helping my Grandfather repair one of the chicken coops in the back yard. He needed some sort of saw that he did not have. He hated to borrow things but had little choice, so he went to a neighbor and asked to borrow that particular kind of saw.

His neighbor was kind enough to loan him the use of the saw, but the saw was in terrible shape. It was dull, the blade was rusted and pitted, and the handle was loose. My Grandfather made the saw work, and when he was done, he took it into his workshop and began to work on the saw. With my mother watching, he cleaned and polished the blade, sharpened it, and repaired the loose handle.

My mother asked him why he was doing all that. She could not understand why he would spend the time fixing a saw he had borrowed. Clearly, she said, the saw’s owner wasn’t concerned about it.

My Grandfather turned to her and said, “Ardis, always return something in better shape than when you borrowed it. Doing that can only serve you well in life.”

That bit of wisdom had a big impact on my mother, and later, also on me.

We need more people today to think like that!

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