“[Autobiography of Mary Kenyon Maxson in her own hand . . .]”

transcribed by G. Douglas Clarke and Carol M. Clarke

mkmbFrances2"Mary K. Maxson, was born in Richmond Washington Co. R.I. in the year of our Lord 1825, June 2nd daughter of David and Mary Kenyon Maxson.

In the year 1828 her father moved in company with his father (Benjamin Maxson) way out west as it was then termed and settled in Little Genesee Allegany Co. New York State, it then being a wilderness.

After spending two years in our western home, in the spring of 1830, my father travled [sic] with his own conveyance taking his family which consisted of my mother[,] brother David and myself back to the home of my mother's birthplace in the town of Charlestown R.I. on the King Tom [named for Tom Ninigret, the last crowned "King" of the Narragansett Indians] farm to visit her family. 

We remained east three months.  My father had cleared 20 acres of land which was under cultivation and had built a sawmill on a stream of water which run through his farm, it being the means of working up the pine lumber as fast as he cleared the land, preparatory for running it down the river to Pittsburgh or Cincinnati where he found a market.

David and Mary (Kenyon) Maxson, great-great-great-grandparents of G. Douglas Clarke and Carol M. Clarke

He employed a trusty man to take charge of his business, that he might remain during the season with our eastern relatives.

After spending the summer, and the autumn months, began to show signs of approaching winter, we began to talk of returning to our western home.

Consequently the day was set to start westward.

The carriage was drawn up to the door, trunks were made secure; the dinner box which contained our lunch with the best of everything was placed within.

The word ready rang out, which brought a fresh gush of sadness and gloom to all parties concerned, for really we were a homesick family especially my mother, who had not become reconciled to rear her family in the wilderness.

The friends gathered to bid us good by [sic] with a "God protect you" on your journey.

In those days it was considered a great undertaking to travel five hundred miles.

After the lieftaking [sic] we started homeward being fourteen days enroute.

Then came our friends with hearty congratulations for our safe return.

Now came a settling down to business, many men were employed in working up the lumber for market.  The settlers were mostly from the east, and were very appreciative of each other's society.

My father, after his return assisted in building a school house which served as a place of worship.  Previously our homes had been open to school & meeting of the inhabitants for worship.

As the school house was one half of a mile from our residence, my parents taught me at home to read and write and cipher, doing examples in addition and subtraction also spelling.

The house in Little Genesee, NY where Mary lived as a young woman.

Late and early the woodman's axe was heard and the land was fast being cleared.

The wilderness gave way to pleasant meadows and fields of waving grain.

Many were the loging [sic] bees, husking bees and quilting bees, as the inhabitants were all busy in helping themselves or each other.

Three years soon rolled around, when my Grandfather Kenyon my mothers father, requested my father to bring his family back to their R.I. home again and he would defray the expenses.

This time my father hired a man and his wife to come to our house and care for the business in his absence.

My brother David died two months previous from a scroffula swelling on his shoulder, which caused us all great sorrow.

I had another brother who was named after both my grandfathers (James Benjamin).

This time we journeyed back to R.I. and remained two months or more having made the journey in the most pleasant part of the year and at a time in my life when I could appreciate all that was beautiful in nature and art.

On our return I commenced attending school.

My studies were Aulneys[?] geography, Smith's grammar, and Dabold's Arithmetic Spelling & writing.

My teacher giving me what I could learn easily as he did not believe in crowding so  young a pupil.

My father built a large frame house the coming season.  We had lived previously in a log house, which bore the name of "The log Mansion" as my mother had an artistic way of beautifying the most humble abode.

That or the next season following the S[eventh]. D[ay]. Baptist Church was built and a pastor was hired and we began to feel more civilized and more contented with our surroundings.

The first few years, the inhabitants suffered from the depredation made by the wild and ferocious animals which infested the wilderness.

Young pigs were often taken from the sty.  Whole flocks of sheep were wiped out by the howling wolves; and the inhabitants had to be vigilint [sic] both by night and day.  My father had twelve sheep killed and wounded so they were past recovery in one night.

One of the men went to the skid-way to load logs.  As he raised the kant [sic] hook to roll the log on to the sled he heard a growl.  He at once saw a wild cat or panther ready to spring on to him.

He brought the kant hook down on its head which stuned [sic] him, he then killed him at once and brought it home and skinned it and got a bounty, as there was a bounty on Panthers, Bears, Wolves, Wildcats & Foxes at that time.

My father was invited to his brother-in-law's to a logging bee, to come with his hands one day and help prepare some ground for winter wheat.

The foliage had begun to change its color and was in all its  autumn beauty.  The men must have their meals.

My mother went along to assist Aunt, in preparing the meals, so brother and I went along.

A short time before dinner cousin Emeline [Maxson who married Edon Burdick?] and I who was about my age went into the edge of the woods but a few steps from the house to gather moss and leaves.

We sprang upon a log which was covered with beautiful moss and chatted a while gathering the moss.  I noticed an article of my wardrobe was missing, I sprang down from the log and began searching for it.

On looking up within a few steps from where I stood I noticed a black sheep coming toward me.

I ran with all my might with hands extended calling come Nanny come Nanny.  The animal smelled of my hands and as I was about to embrace it he turned and shackled off with speed.

We ran to the house to tell the news, that we had found a black sheep as we believed.

On relating our story to my Aunt, and Mother, they looked at each other very much surprised and said we must not go away from the door to play again that day.

Aunt steped [sic] to the door and blew the dinner horn.  Uncle and Father soon came with the hands.

After hearing the circumstance and asking cousin and I many questions, they decided it was a bear, as there were no sheep within twelve miles.

The men hurried through dinner, and those who had guns went in search of the bear.

After a fruitless search they returned late in the afternoon to enjoy a good supper prepared by my Aunt and Mother.

When on our way home, my parents seemed quite nervous as they took a foot path home and I noticed they held on to my hands, and walked very briskly, and seemed much relieved when they came out into the clearing, and much more so, when safe within the house.  The next day at the setting of the sun, we looked out toward a stream of water which ran through the farm, where a pine tree had fallen lengthwise of the stream and saw as I thought the same black sheep we saw the day previous, and which my mother and hired girl called a bear.

He would walk few steps on the tree then spring into the water, and bring out a fish, and back onto the tree and eat it: then watch for more.  He continued to do so until it was too dark to see him.

The men were late in coming in from work, and my father had gone to one of the neighbors, and did not return until quite late, causing mother great anxiety for fear he would be devoured, by the bear or some other wild animal.

It was too dark to find the bear that night, so after every thing was made secure, we retired for the night.

In the morning father went to see Hiriam [sic] Wilson "father of Forsythe Wilson the Poet", as he was a good marksman, and told him about the bear.

They thought the amimal must be in, or near a ravine, between their houses.

After two or three hours hunt, Mr. Wilson came home with the news, that he had killed the bear; and must have help to bring it home.  So father and two or three of his men went and assisted in bringing in the bear.

Mr. Wilson skined [sic] it, and divided the meat among the neighbors.

It was so oily we failed to relish it; but some liked it.

Horseback riding was one of the best means of conveyance, on account of poor roads.  Mr. Wilson had the skin tanned and used it on his saddle to ride on as long as he remained in this State.

Grandma Hall, as she was famaliarly [sic] called started out one afternoon from one of her sons to go and see her other son, who lived one half a mile distant.

The son where she started from supposed she was safe with her other son's family.

About ten p.m. as we were about retiring for the night we heard a woman's voice, screaming for help in the direction of the sawmill.  Some of the men were quite nervous about going out, as they said Panthers sounded so much like human beings.

Father armed himself with gun, and lanterns and asked how many of his men would go with him; when a number started out, amid a continual scream.

As they neared the Slash, where they crossed over the dam, they could hear the distinct cry for help to get over.

On going across they found, standing near the water's edge, Grandma Hall.

She had lost her way, and had crossed the stream on a pine tree, and had wandered down the stream to find her son Wilfred's.

They helped her across and to the house.

She seemed bewildered.  Mother made her a cup of tea.  After drinking her tea, and eating her supper she retired for the night, much exhausted.

She was not more than comfortably in bed, before the wolves set up the most hideous howls in the direction which she came from.

In the morning some of the men, went across the slash where they found her, and all arround [sic] to the water's edge, the wolves had pawed up the ground.

They came on to her track one fourth of a mile above and had followed her.

My Grandfather Benjamin Maxson went out into the woods one day with his cross-cut saw to saw some logs for the mill.

He set the saw on to the log and commenced when a bear rose up on the other side and commenced hugging the saw with a continuous grip, that GrandPa thought he had better let bruin have his own way, and he got home as fast as his limbs would carry him, as he had no other weapon for defence.

He armed himself and returned to the spot, but found nothing but his saw, which was badly bent and quite bloody.

In a few days a hunter, Mr. Timothy Cowles killed the bear and the skin was mangled terribly with the saw-teeth, showing that the bear had a hard struggle with the saw.

Deer, and fish, were so plenty for a few years, that some of the families depended largely on fresh fish, and venison, for their family supplies.

Jerked venison was considered a rare dish.

In the summer after I was fourteen years old, my Father again started with his family for the east, to visit our relatives.  We remained until quite late in the season then returned.

Father had built another sawmill and was making lumbering and farming a success.  He had bought another farm and built a store, which he set opposite our dwelling house, and in the spring following filled the store with dry goods, and groceries.

For 3 years the business was carried on very successfully.  

Stephen Maxson, M.D of Cuba, N.Y.

His brother Dr. Steven Maxson of Cuba wished to become his partner. With the promise that in a few weeks he would furnish three thousand dollars and give him one-half he could make in his practice, he took him in.

Uncle failed to furnish the money when he agreed to; but still continued to promise and make excuses which seemed plausible.

My father had implicit confidence in his sincirity [sic].

One day Uncle said to my father David, we could make a big strike, to fill a store of goods in Arcade about sixty miles from here as people are all well to do and we would not have to trust as we do here.

We could sell for cash.

Father said, we are doing well here; and I would not think of business so far from home.

It had been decided for Uncle to go to New York that spring for goods on account of my mother's sickness.

The day Uncle started for New York, he brought the subject up again of starting business in Arcade [Centerville was crossed out].

My father, in the presence of a number of witnesses forbade his using his name or any of his means for that purpose.

Uncle seemed satisfied and went to the city and returned.

Goods came and filled the store.  Within this time Father had returns from his lumber, and made the payments on the goods, and were doing well.  Uncle had failed to furnish the money which he promised to make him a partner in the store.

My Father loved him dearly and had faith to believe he would furnish the money as soon as he collected it where he said it was already due, for he continued to make fair promises.

Prof. W.C. Kenyon and my Father were warm friends.

While on a visit to my parents in company with his wife Melissa, it was planned for me to attend school at Alfred Academy the coming term, which was to commence in about three weeks.  On Prof. Kenyon's return to Alfred my board and room was engaged; he wrote that all things were ready.

My wardrobe was ready, and I had begun to pack my trunk as a preparation to go when the time came.

We all retired for the night to rest in peace and quiet.

No one with brighter anticipations for the future than I.  The only drawback for me, was that I was to be seperated [sic] from my family for a few weeks.

No family could be more closely united in bonds of love than my father's family.  As yet I had never been seperated from them but a few days at a time.

The next day's mail brought a letter from a firm in New York, asking the firm of Maxson & Co. to pay a five-thousand dollar note which was past-due; and they could wait no longer.  The note being given for goods which were shiped [sic] to Arcade.

Uncle had been absent more than form[er]ly.

His excuse for being away was that he was attending to his medical profession.

My father answered the letter at once; and took his team suited for the occasion, and went to Arcade, hoping to find Uncle and the goods.

He found the man behind the counter who had been employed in the store by the name of Gillette; but no money and no acc[oun]t. books.

Gillett claimed the goods were sold for cash and the money had been deposited as fast as sold, but played ignorant as to where the money was deposited.

Father cleaned out the store, and brought the goods home, in all, some over five hundred dollars.  In a few days Uncle came home, with all the sanctity imaginable.

"O! David you have had a scare.  I shall fix it all right.  Now don't you worry, I will meet it in a few days."

Few days came, and passed; he did nothing about it.  An action was commenced, not only for the five thousand but for another note nearly as large with Grandfathers name attached to it.

Uncle had business away nearly all the time.

It became evident that he did not intend to do any thing toward Settling up the matter.  All he owned was in his wifes name [Wealthy Ann Champlain, daughter of Dr. Gilbert Champlain].

The law could touch nothing, so my Father and Grandfather faced the debts.

Everything was sold at auction, for less than one third its real value.

We all steped [sic] from Affluence down to the hard realities of a life of burden and care.

Prof Wm. C. Kenyon of Alfred Centre, wrote a beautiful letter full of love and simpathy [sic] with the kindly offer of a home with him and wife for Mary K. until she obtained her education, urging father to come out with her at once.

John T. Wright the Sheriff came in person and offered me a home gratis, if I would be company for his wife in his absence until I obtained my education in the academic school in Angilica.

Uncle James N. Kenyon said I must come to him in R.I. and he would send me to Providence to the high school.

I was the eldest of six children.

My mother had always had help to do her work but now must do without.

Father and Mother called me into their room one day, and said, while the tears streamed down their faces, "Mary if you feel that you would like to go to Prof Kenyon's we can trust him to look after your welfare until we can get on our feet again, as now is the time for you to obtain the education you so much covet and which will be a help to you in future years."  I told them I had decided to remain with them in their struggle, that I could not leave Mother to toil alone.

That I would accept the circumstances as they were and we would try and bear the burdens together.

I would study and read up at home and improve as best I could and help mother.

My father and mother, both cried aloud.

And Father said Mary this is a great sacrafice [sic] for you to make but you may not regret it in the future, as I do not know what your Mother could do without you.

In 2 or 3 weeks a young man by the name of George Clark a distant relative of my fathers, came from Elicottville and offered his heart and hand and the wealth which he possessed if I woud marry him.

While I felt that he was Noble Worthy and True I told him, I was too young to enter into such an engagement and I could not think of leaving my parents in their sorrow.

A friend of fathers, bid in the farm, and gave Father a chance to pay for it or redeem it at what it was bid in at, which he did by getting the lumber off and delivering it to market.

Everything around and about us seemed so strange, it being so changed.

True friends remained faithful, while the butterfly friends fled like dew before the morning sun.

There was a select school started, which I attended the coming fall and winter, giving Mother all the assistance I could under the circumstances.  The teacher's name was Irish, Bro[ther] of the Rev James B Irish.

The school passed off pleasantly and profitably until the latter part of the term, when he made a public announcement, that he had proposed marriage to Mary K. and she had rejected him.

The affair was made so public that he was fast losing his influence as a teacher.

My father being one of the trustees said the affair would sooner die out if I left school.  So I remained at home and studied to keep up with the classes.

My fathers Clerk, Mr. Alfred Brand proposed marriage about that time and he would wait any length of time for the event.

A Clerk in my uncle's store, by the name of O. Leseur [?] wrote a letter proposing marriage and sent if by way of a young couple whom we thought could influence me and he would wait ten years if I said so.

I refused both offers.

Riley Scott a Lawyer and brother of our Pastor Rev J.G. Scott wrote to me hoping I would not refuse him, hoping I would take time to think of it.

The next day he came with his father and made his wishes known to my father and mother.

My father was called out, on rising to go he said " My daughter is old enough to speak for herself."

I said Marriage was a very solemn matter if rightly considered.

When I married it would be with one whom I loved above all others.  I had not found that one yet consequently I could not engage myself to anyone.

This year we all worked very hard outdoor and in.

Mother and I, to wait on the hands who assisted father in getting the lumber off to redeem the farm, and father to make both ends meet.

Dr Wm. M. Truman came from Otselic and settled in Richburgh.  He obtained his medicine at my father's store and was desirous that father would use his influence to assist him in getting established as a practicing physician.  Father employed him in his family.  He proved Skillful, and soon, got into a good practice.

They would quite often drive from Richburgh to Genesee (six miles) to attend church with us, as they liked our preacher.

After some two years acquaintance Mrs Truman's brother came from Scott Courtland Co. where he was born and reared until he was 23 years old, and commenced the study of medicine under his brother-in-law Dr Truman.  His father Paul Babcock having died had caused the home to be broken up.  His mother went to live with her daughter Mrs Jessie Burdick.

Mr Babcock was well versed in the topics of the day, very witty, and popular with all classes in society.  He rode with the Dr to visit his patients and seemed adapted to the profession.

They came quite often to fathers store for medicine and I frequently waited upon them, as was my habit in immirginces [sic]. Mr Babcock drove to Genesee with his sister Mrs Truman nearly every Sabbath and would often remain at my fathers to dinner.

We became quite well acquainted and an attachment sprung up between us.

After a time, we engaged to marry, at the end of the three [?]

years when he should receive his diploma and settle in business as a physician.

After two years study his eyes seemed to give out, and he was advised to quit studying for the time or there would be danger of his becoming blind.

Within this time, he had become restless without a home of his own.

One day my uncle brought a message to me, from Mr Deverauds of Elicottsville who was the only son and had a rich father.

Uncle said I would live in affluence and be idolized if I married him, for his father liked me, and would do all in his power to make us comfortable and happy and young Deveraugh [?] felt he never could be happy without me.  Hoped I would accept.

I told him I had no desire to break my engagement, with Mr Babcock.

Martin Wilcox Babcock and Mary Kenyon (Maxson) Babcock

Nov. 17th 1842 we were married by Eld, Henry P. Greene with the understanding that I should remain at home one year while he finished the course in medicine and received his diploma and became established in business.

My father furnished business for Mr Babcock from Nov 17, 1842 to Aug 28th, 1843 when we moved our things from my fathers onto a farm in Bolivar four miles from home which he had bought.  He had no desire to complete the study of medicine, which really was a great disappointment to me.

Farming and lumbering was his occupation for a number of years.

Matthew Stillman of Friendship vilage [sic] of Nile, urged Mr. Babcock to become his partner, as he needed more means to carry on business.

After some consideration we moved to Nile, and Mr. Babcock and Stillman were partners a number of years and were successful.

They disolved [sic] partnership and we moved back to Genesee.

At times Mr. Babcock seemed despondent.  We all did much to keep him happy and cheerful.

While a partner with Stillmans in the Tan and Courier business, he had learned the trade, and was fully competent to carry on the business alone.

My father assisted him in building a Shop to carry on the business.  Vats were completed, bark was ground, hides were bought, and all ready for business, when Mr. Babcock said he must go down the river for one of the Lumberman.

The house at 33 South Main Street in Alfred, built by Alpheus Burdick Kenyon and his son-in-law, Martin Wilcox Babcock, in 1873 and 1874.

We all thought it very strange as he could make much more to go on with his business at home.

After remaining from home three weeks he returned.  Came home very despondent.  We supposed he would enter heartily into the work, when, to my surprise he told me he could not bear the responsibility, "In short I cannot carry on business.  I have no confidence in my capacity."

I told him he was fully competent and must put his faculties into activity.  "He says, Mary! you cannot change me."

Ever after, he worked for others as he wished.

Six years prior to his death, he assisted Our Son F[orrest]. M. Babcock on the Allegany Stock Farm in caring for their high bred horses.

He seemed well, except times of gloominess, up to three months previous to his death, when he came home sick.

All this gloom was gone never could there have been, a more cheerful sick person.  His trust seemed secure, in the love of God with the Christians hope of future happenings in an eternity of rest.

He died May 8th, 1891."



“Dedicated to my Children and Grandchildren 

that they may know more of my early life”


When I married Mr Babcock he was not a Christian which caused me many doubts about the propriety of uniting with one who might not always see as I did in regard to his duty.  He believed in Religion, and hoped soon to enjoy it, in all its fullness and hoped he would never be the means of hindering me in my christian course.

We were married in 1842, and not until 1849 did he experience the change in his heart which made him feel that he was accepted as a child of God.

In the spring of 1849 he was baptised by Eld James Bailey and united with the church in Little Genesee N.Y.

My struggles to maintain my Christian life were very great.  The society of Christians was my delight.  The prayer & conference meetings, I had faithfully attended ever after uniting with the church, at the age of fourteen.  My husband wished my company to go to other places, and he very seldom wanted to attend the services of God.

I felt my responsibility as a christian; after going to housekeeping I commenced family worship by reading the word of God and a short season of prayer; sometimes he would read and pray with me.  Family worship was always maintand [sic] while our family were together.  When he enjoyed Religion we were a happy family.

I often had my misgivings in regard to my course of family prayer, fearing that by leading in the exercise it might make my husband feel that he did not stand head in his family.

In his last hours, previous to his death, he told me I did right, and that my course had been a strength to him and had influenced him to do right, which now consoled me with the idea, that to do God's bidding is always right.

Mary K.M. Babcock