1860 Port Ontario, New York - January 23, 1929
I was born at Port Ontario, Oswego
County, New York on the 21 day of April 1860, in a little house on the
outskirts that my father owned. I think there was about seven acres of
land. My father, John M. Litts, sailed on the lakes in the summer season,
living at home with my mother when navigation was closed. At the time of
my birth, he was Captain of a steamer trading from Oswego, New York to
Lake Superior points. My grandfather, Daniel Litts, lived
a mile south of us on what was called the Oswego Turnpike, a road going
from Oswego to Watertown, New York. There were no railroads in that section
at that time. My father invested his savings in several tracts of land
adjoining my grandfather Litts, and soon after I was born he purchased
three other tracts. One from my mother's brother, John W. Price, and
one each from his two brothers, Lewis and Stephen Litts, thus consolidating
his holdings in what was considered a large farm for northern New York,
about 260 acres.
The first I can remember,
and that very dimly, is running about the empty rooms and halls of a new
house that my father had built. It was a house of 12 rooms with halls and
closets, and to me, a child, it seemed very large and gloomy. The parlor
in the main structure was rarely used, not more that one or two times a
year, and as a child I was not permitted to go in there, only with my mother.
The two chambers of the house were over the parlor and as a boy I had the
utmost horror of sleeping up there. It was away from the main living rooms
through two halls and up a flight of stairs. The stories of ghosts and
spooks that I heard in the neighborhood made me dread those chambers like
the inquisition. The next thing I can remember is that my mother and I
were about to take a trip with my father to Lake Superior, I was about
five years old, some of the incidents on that trip remain with me today.
My brother, Fred, was ten years older than I. He took my mother and me to Oswego to meet my father, the
distance was about 20 miles. The steamer was named the Normad and
was both a freight and passenger boat. The crew was mostly neighbors
of fathers and lived in Port Ontario. The trip lasted weeks. I remember
passing through the Welland Canal and of meeting my Uncle, Captain Porter
Price, in Chicago, and his giving me some small silver coins, and also
buying a reed canoe off the Indians at Piermarquit, Michigan. There was
a school teacher on the home trip that took it upon herself to watch and
keep me out of mischief. I wanted to climb on the rail and look at the
water and go among the crew, but she made me stay with her, and most of
the time I remember I disliked her cordially.
My grandfather Litts
died when I was about seven years old. He was 71 or 72 when he died. At
one time he had a large farm, but he had
given it to his sons and had sold
some off, there was only about 35 acres left on the place when he died.
He farmed in the summer time and made boots and shoes in the winter and
did repair work. The old shop stood for years after his death. There were
no shoe factories in those days, all boots and shoes were made by hand
in small shops. Farming in those days was not as it is today, nearly everyone
had a trade to help out with. Farm products brought very little and land
was cheap and everybody had it.
My grandmother Litts
I remember very well and always with love and the most profound respect.
She was a quiet little woman and was the peacemaker. There were three
boys and four girls in their family and in their younger days were high strung
and hot tempered and inclined to be quarrelsome. They all married before
I can remember except Betsy, she never married. Grandmother brought
than all up so they all respected and listened to her long after they had
families of their own. She was a charming, lovable, little woman and died
at the extreme old age of 94.
Grandfather Litts willed
the homestead to Aunt Betsy and she was to take care of grandmother Litts.
There was some money, not very
much. Aunt Betsy did everything
to make life pleasant for her mother and she lived many years after grandfather's
death and mourned for him as long as she lived. Grandfather Litts,
I do not remember much about, he was a tall straight man, stern, with little
to say. It was from him that all the Litts' inherited their harsh tempers.
On my mother's side, there was also a large family of four boys and four
girls. Ralph Price, my grandfather on my mother's side, emigrated from
Connecticut, somewhere on the Connecticut River. Ralph Price and his brother,
Isaac, came to what is now Oswego, New York as near as I can make out between the year 1800 and 1810,
and bought a tract of land of several hundred acres on the Salmon River,
one mile east of Port Ontario and both brothers brought up their families
there. Grandfather Price lived until I was a boy of 12 years and
was much loved by his grandchildren.
Grandmother Price, died before I can
remember. Grandfather married a second wife, a very good woman, but like
all stepmothers, was not appreciated by grandfather's children as fully
as she should have been. Grandfather sold the farm during the Civil War
and bought a small farm at a place called Sand Banks, New York, it was
later renamed Altmar. He died at the age of 82, leaving considerable property
for those days. He was universally respected.
My mother was a good
woman, very religious and was devoted to her family, a loyal wife and mother
who tried to bring up her family in the way of righteousness. I can not
conceive of her doing anything that the world and her God would think
she did wrong, intentionally. If she erred, it was the fault of the
head and not of the heart. I am free to say that I think her religious
teachings were over zealous. She came from Puritan stock who bore their
religion like a cross.
My father, John Litts,
or Captain Litts as he was called by his neighbors, for he had been Captain
of lake steamships for many years,
was a man of very few words with
a flashy, ungovernable temper, whose will was law to all the family ... except
mother. When he abandoned the lakes on account of the railroad furnishing
cheaper transportation, he worked the farm until his death. He died April
21, 1877 at the age of 54 years.
As a boy I worked on
the farm after I was old enough when I was not going to school. We kept
a large dairy and I had to get the cows from the pasture in the summer,
help milk and do chores after school. Father was a hard driver in the busy season,
but at times when he was not driving, there was time to hunt, go fishing
and such things as a boy delights to do. The old farm bordered on Lake
Ontario and in the summer season we would go bathing in the lake on Sunday
morning and sometimes during the week in the evening after work was done.
There was considerable chestnut timber on the farm and we used to get up
parties to gather the nuts. There was also hickory nuts, beach nuts and a few butternuts. Huckleberries
were abundant in the woods along the streams. There was berries of all
descriptions to be had in the woods and pasture land and the wild variety
was what people depended on, the cultivated variety came later.
When I was 12 years
old I was kept out of school in the summer, to work on the farm. I learned
to plant corn, cut and drop potatoes,
cultivate with 'old Fanny', mother's
driving horse. I raked hay and helped mow it away in the barn and such
farm work. At 14, I was able to drive a team and do a "mans work" in nearly
everything on the farm. I was large and strong for my age. In northern
New York the winters are very severe and there is not much that can be
done on a farm. I went to school in the winter and helped with the chores
mornings and evenings. This I did until I ran away from home when I was
nearly 17 years old. In the meantime my brother married Miss Eva Calkins,
a stepdaughter of Alonzo Bradener, a rather distant neighbor of ours. She
was fairly well educated, what would amount to a high school of today.
She taught in the district schools for several
years before she married my brother.
This account of the life of George
W. Litts was never finished. The last sheet was found in his typewriter
after his death.