(Interview found in files of the County Historian; Researched & Submitted by Mary Rhodes)
No author is named, but very likely attributable to Hazel M. Shear
Interview with Mr. Virgil F. Randolph Jan 27, 1942
My first conversation with Mr. Randolph about the history of the Town of Willing was on January 27, 1942 when he was still living in the old Yale House on the Famous Lot 43. Ozias Yale, the grandfather of Mrs. Randolph and Mrs. Archie Wells, came to this place which is the place where John Ford made the first settlement in the town, in 1833 from Oxford, Chenango County. Mr. Yale lived in this house until his death in 1891 at the age of 97. The saddlebags that Mr. Randolph gave to the Historic Association belonged to Mr. Yale but had been handed down to him from an earlier generation and they are dated September 1776 and in them is the name in ink of “Wm S. Hubbell Painted Post, Steuben County, NY”. He also gave a set of wool carders belonging formerly to the “Yales, Lymans, Hollisters or Jones’s.” The saddlebags were used by Mr. Yale in his travels as constable and commissioner of the poor. Ozias Yale was the first Town Clerk of the Town of Willing and served later as constable.
In March I talked with Mr. Randolph at his home in Alfred. I asked him where the first caucus was held in the town. He does not know positively, but thinks that it was probably held in Stannards as the first one that he remembers (1877) was there and it was an established custom at that time. It seemed to be the most central point for such meetings in that day.
It seems that our old records have not been too well preserved. At one time when he was a member of the Town Board, they met to find the proper width of the roads. They tried to look it up from past records and found that they had been kept in a private home and the house and papers had burned up. They decided that the correct width for the road was three rods from the middle of the road.
Mr. Randolph told of an incident when funds were being raised to build the Methodist Church in Stannards. Uriah Skinner was one of the leaders in getting the church organized. The presiding elder told a story that was out of place from the pulpit and a number of people were much displeased, but said nothing. At this time the amount of money pledged had reached $100 and the elder said that if someone would give another $50 he would tell another story, whereupon Mr. Skinner got up and said he would give $50 providing no more vulgar stories were told.
On Oct. 2, I talked with Mr. Randolph again and he told of our former successful apple business. Willing and nearby sections of Alma and Wellsville had a very good business in apples from about 1892 to 1896. Harrison Rogers was the main person in the buying of apples and one year alone they sold over 16 cars besides supplying the local demand. Mr. Randolph had a hired man who seldom talked more than to say “yes” or “no”. One day Mr. Rogers came down and asked Mr. Randolph to pack apples for him. Mr. Randolph was digging potatoes and thought he could not spare the time, but Mr. Rogers insisted and came back the third time. After that, the hired man made his long speech, …”You had better pack apples.” He agreed to get up earlier, work harder and later. So Mr. Randolph took the job and packed eight cars of apples.
One year on the ninth of October, they were planning to pick apples the next day, it was quite cold, but they only expected a frost. In the night, the temperature went down to 18 degrees and it did not warm up again until spring. Hundreds of bushels of apples froze on the trees and it was one of the biggest losses the farmers of Willing ever sustained.
When James DeVore began buying produce for Scoville, Brown and Co., he demanded all sprayed fruit. By that time diseases were beginning to get in and it was necessary to spray to get good fruit in most cases. Mr. Randolph had trees in part of his orchard that he had fertilized too generously and had also sprayed too thoroughly. The fertilizer had made them grow to an enormous size, but they were very rough. He had other trees that he had not sprayed and he took a load down to Wellsville, mostly the perfect smooth Spies that had grown on the unsprayed unfertilized trees, and a few of the “Pumpkins” he had raised on the fertilized trees. Mr. DeVore got a crowd around and showed them the good apples, saying that that was the result of spraying and good care and that the other apples could have been equally good if they had followed his instructions. He was not too pleased when he learned the truth and refused to buy the apples. They had to be taken back home, but before the winter was over, Mr. DeVore had bought them all.
He told of his experiences as a teacher in the Yale district where he furnished the books entirely and most of the desks as well. He bought the books from a schoolbook concern in Rochester where he could get them quite reasonable priced. A few years later, when he was not teaching, Clyde Rogers was going to school at the same school house and came down to talk with him about the high price the pupils were all having to pay for their books. The teacher changed the books frequently. A book that they were being required to buy at that time cost $2.50. It seemed too much to pay so Clyde had Mr. Randolph ordered him a book from the company. When it came and he only had to pay $1.10 for it, they decided to have him order 30 of the books for the rest of the school. The teacher was very much displeased and eventually lost his job for it was learned that he made more money from the sale of books to the students than from his salary.