Oral Histories of Clermont by:

Mary Nella Hafner, Dr. Fritz Guenter, Fred Hagman,Gerald Kinney, Michael Weidert,Shirley Moore, Wendell Anderson.

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The History of Clermont Mary Nella Hafner

    Time dims the memory but it also changes the town. Industries and families move away or die and when your grandchildren ask 'What was it like when you were young?'-you really enjoy reminiscing. Our way of life has changed a great deal in the past fifty years (this is dated app. 1965) but this is my remembrances of Clermont, plus a few recorded events.
    In 1880 the Buffalo Coal Company built 50 two-story houses, near the present school house, for their employees. You hear many old-time residents refer to these houses as "The Patch". There was a sawmill the church and another one at Wermwag.
A two-story school house was built around 1885. In our generation, many houses were assumed to be haunted by someone other than Caspar the Friendly Ghost. The haunted house of Clermont was near the creek below the Patch. The children were told that the man had been killed by his wife
with an axe and if you looked closely -preferably after dark-you could see a headless man sitting at his shoemaker's bench. With a little imagination, many of the local children were sure they could see him. You have undounbedly heard the song "I owe my life to the Company Store". Although we did not have such a store in Clermont, the Buffalo Coal Company did build us a church about 1874 (this church still stands, adjacent to the Clermont-Norwich Road, across from the school, near Anderson Grove-it is now a hunting camp). It was a community church and in order to get the necessary furnishings the women of the church gave an oyster supper to help buy a gold-colored chandelier with oil lamps, and a bright red carpet. The chandelier cost $20 and the carpet cost $50.
    After the tile factory was built about 1901 the Methodists built their own church near the factory and sold their share of the community church to the
Lutherans. It was commonly referred to thereafter as the "Swede Church" since most of the parishioners were of that nationality. (ed. note the Methodist Church was built in 1895, six years BEFORE the tile factory was built). About 1901 (ed-actually 1895) a Catholic Church was built near the center of the community. They had a nice organ in the church and services were held there for about 25 years. Even after services were discontinued, you
would hear Leonard Amend playing the organ with enthusiasm and reverance. When I came to Clermont in 1921 there were 3 churches, 2 hotels, four general stores, a post office, barber shop, pool room, school house, large boarding house, UNG office, tile factory, Odd Fellows Hall. We had the Pennsylvania Railroad train service to Olean and Johnsonburg daily and the Shawmut Railroad with service from St. Marys to Olean. We also had the
HOOTLE BUG. Ask your parents about the BUG.
    The Black Row, Queens Row and Kings Row were the names given to the houses built by the tile factory. During the winter our main live contact with
civilization was through the railroad. Traveling salesmen came by train and stayed overnight at our hotels or boarding house. Large boxes of bread were
delivered by train.
    Music? Yes, we had victrolas and gramophones. Records were odd sounding compared to Hi-Fi and stereo of today, but we listened and danced and
enjoyed every squeak. Local musicians were very popular and invited to participate at parties-free of charge. In the latter part of the twenties we had radios
operated by batteries. Cleveland was the only M.D. who would come to Clermont in winter. He had a Ford pick-up, but most of the parts were removed so
that it could be picked up if it became mired in mud or snow. Many times Dr. Cleveland walked miles to help deliver the Clermont babies. Naturally he did not always arrive in time and I would have the baby and mother taken care of. What did the Doctor charge for his services? $35. There was no pre-natal care for the doctor was not contacted until the baby was ready to arrive. What did I charge? $5. Without present-day knowledge, most young children were taught
to believe that the stork brought them into the world. Why was I there? Well, then the Stork and I brought them. Cars were left blocked up in garages in the winter to save wear on tires but also because roads without snow plows were impassable. Horses and sleighs were used to deliver raw milk to the families and groceries to the numbered wood camps. With no cars on the roads, the town children constantly went sled riding or ice skating. To many, the winter social life of Clermont consisted of going to Church or going to the general store to talk and huddle around the pot-bellied stove or gas stove. Since the grocery stores were open until 10:00 p.m. every evening, the men in town would come in to talk and loaf until the store closed. Seems to me it was always a 12 point buck that got away. Hunters arrived from the cities and boarded at private homes for $40 a week. There were many camps too and if a hunter missed a deer a piece was cut off his shirt-tail that evening. I always expected to see a hunter with no back left to his shirt. Refrigeration consisted of ice boxes in summer. The ice had been cut by hand saws in the winter and stored in an icehouse filled with sawdust. Naturally there were frequent dunkings in that zero weather since the ice was slippery and the ice blocks had to be lifted onto a sleigh. John Erlandson had a tile building where he stored the ice until summer and after many years he improvised an ice machine to cut the ice. It was delivered twice a week for 1 1/2 cents per pound. The local children liked to follow the ice wagon in the summer to gather chips of ice. How did the children escape from school? Miss Perry didn't believe in spring fever and the days of sulfur and molasses for a tonic were past. Most of the girls refused to cooperate but I believe most of the boys tried skipping school legitimately by eating leeks. Now anyone who has smelled the breath of a "leek-eater" will realize that Miss Perry couldn't stand the recitations of such a student. Remember that this was before the days of chlorophyll or mouth wash. Not that we didn't have listerine; we did, but that was for sore throats and then only if salt and warm water didn't work. Would you believe that Clermont did not have electricity until 1946? The stores and most homes used gas lights with mantles and the yell by mothers in those days was "don't jump, you'll break the mantles".
    Water and air pollution in Clermont? We never thought of such a thing even though the sulfur was thick in one creek running through town. We accepted it as mine water. You probably know that the clay for the tile factory was mined here and then baked in kilns that were "salted". Curtains and clothes rotted quickly and many a housewife had to rewash her clothes when the big smokestack spurted soot all over her clothes line. We were so grateful to have an industry in our town that we complained lightly. Really we didn't have the "Pony Express". We had our Post Office and it was another natural hub of our universe. Our newspapers were delivered by mail and we read every word whether we understood them or not. Harrisburg was far away and who really expected to see the current President in that remote place called Washington. They were at fault for all the wrongs of the world or so we thought. Not us! We visited and gossiped and talked politics in the Post Office. Before long our children were visiting Washington and our boys were fighting overseas. It seems to me that we lived more for the present, with few worries about the future, yet we talked of the past as "The Good Old Days".
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Oral History of Dr. Fritz Guenter

    "In the somewhat recent course of my own medical practice, I some time ago ran across a rather interesting phenomenon of legend. In taking care of some people in Clermont, one elderly lady said I always feel better on Wednesdays and Saturdays'., and she repeated it on several different occasions. I finally asked her why she said she felt better on those days. She said 'it is the custom of the whole town to feel better. Years ago every Tuesday and Friday Dr. Chadwick used to come to Clermont on the train, and and it got to be such a habit, the only time people would get sick there anymore is on Tuesdays and Fridays". Editor's note: Dr. Burg Chadwick of Smethport started working for the Buffalo Coal Company, but lived in Smethport. He attended to most Clermont emergencies, often going by horse. Dr. Guenter also had a history of house calls in Clermont, often playing "Cinch" with family members while waiting the outcome of his medical prowess.
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Oral History of Fred Hagman

    Esterbrook cleared the farm that Hagmans bought. The old road from Norwich to Clermont passed by it. Below the Hagman place was the Lasher Farm. The McKendrick Farm was on top of the hill, overlooking Wermwag. It was a long walk for the children to get to school at Wermwag. McKendricks was about 2 miles from Clermont. They were on the Lasher Brook Road.  There were 36 houses in Clermont and four streets (Pine, North, Centre and Railroad). Fred Hafman was born there in 1889.  There was a severe diphtheria epidemic in 1909. A great many children died. Some families were almost wiped out. (editor's note: J. Sonbergh lost 5 children to diphtheria in 21 days).  The old Red Mill grist mill was located along Red Mill Brook a few miles below Wermwag. Bill Dick lived below the mill and told about the stones that sat at the site of the old mill. Artie Jacobson and Fred Haman went fishing and decided to find them. They located the old earth dam foundation and from it located the mill wheels. They were about one foot wide and five feet across. Large trees were growing on the wheels and the numerous floods had buried them pretty deep. They sawed the trees down and dug the wheels out. They dug out three wheels and found one more broken wheel. (editor's note: the wheels were given to the McKean County Historical Society, and at last knowledge were stored in a barn at Sena-Kean Manor).  Bishop's Summit was located where Fred Hagman's home now stands (named after Joel Bishop, a resident of Instanter and a pioneer prominent in early civic affairs in Clermont.).
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Oral History of Gerald Kinney

    Buster Amend us to like this woman who made moonshine in Betula. One night he asked my brother Howard to drive him to the doctor in Smethport. You had to go through Betula. When they got in front of her place he asked Howard to stop and pull hard on his arm. After 2 hard pulls Buster proclaimed himself cured and said 'Lets celebrate and go in for a drink".  One day were all hanging around on the porch and Mark Amend stopped by with a rope. We all talked awhile and he said he was going to take a walk. He wasn't seen until winter, when his body was found hanging by the Gumboot mines. My sister Annabelle had a farm in the Betula Valley. My brother Don and I would walk the Norwich Road down and spend the week-end, and then walk back, snow or shine. They had a man who was hard of hearing plow with his mule; we kids would shout for it to halt, but the man didn't hear us and couldn't figure out what was wrong with that mule. One day my dog was chasing a rabbit behind the Shawmut station. The rabbit turned by the mine cave-in, but the dog went straight and fell in. I walked back to the station to borrow a ladder, but the agent would only loan it to my father. I climbed down
and got the dog. When the Hoffmans needed help haying, they'd ask us kids. They couldn't pay but she'd make a great meal. One of their boys was hit by a train while crossing the tracks in his Model T. It crippled him. They all moved to the Port Allegany area. Kenny Robinson owned the mine I worked in when I was 15, over by Huck's. It had thin rails. We'd push the cars out by hand. Fred Anderson had the mine out by Dolly's; Jack Yoder and Fred Burkhouse worked there. When we were 15 or 16 we went to a carnival in Johnsonburg. It was closed for the night, but one of the guys said he knew how to run the rides. Carnie yelled "Rube"-it sounded like a voice from heaven. Karl HAGMAN WAS IN ONE OF THOSE PLANES< GOING AROUND AND AROUND> He tried to get down and one of the carnies beat the hell out of him. We were getting beat bad when Chief Redmond saved us. One day Miss Perry took us on an outing to Anderson Grove. Three of us were curious if we were going to pass, so we sneaked back to school and pried a window open. Someone spilled a bottle of ink all over the report cards. When Miss Perry came back she made everyone put their hands on their desks. She really beat us. Once I tied a string between my desk and a girl's. Miss Perry would walk down the aisle while she was reading. She tripped and blamed the girl and made her put her nose in her book. We had one teacher, Miss Pearson-boy was I in love with her.  We moved from Cross Fork to Clermont in the winter I was only one year old. We kids were bundled and sat on the sled on top of our possessions. It was so cold we had to stop and build a fire. We moved into the Dumjohn House, by the Odd Fellows Building. Later we lived in the pasture (the old Mack farm, across the Pennsy tracks from King's Row.)
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Oral History of Michael Weidert

    When I lived in Crosby, sometimes we'd walk up to the Pennsy Pond (along the Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad tracks, about a mile east of Clermont). There was an old stump, about four feet high, and we'd dive off it. I remember when the Fuller boys died there (July 4, 1930).
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Oral History of Shirley Moore

    The train (Pittsburg, Shawmut and Northern) stopped right by our house (the old Miller house, just west of the PS and N station in Clermont). We had bums knock on the door for a bite to eat. Sometimes they'd sharpen knives or do odd jobs. We fed them, they never gave us any trouble. When the trains went over the road (by the station), we'd wait for the engine to go by so we didn't get burned by cinders.
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Oral History of Wendell Anderson

    Paul and Margaret Searfoss raised their family of eight boys and three girls, in the house where Danny Olson now lives.  The only surviving member of that family is Ronald, the youngest boy. He was called "Pooch" by everybody in Clermont during his boyhood years. Ella Hafner Bailey was the daughter of Harry Hafner who was employed by the Gas Company for many years. Her mother dies in 1908, in the house where Danny Olson now lives, they lived there a few years before Paul Searfoss got it. Evelyn Paulson never lived in Clermont but had strong family ties there. Her grandmother, Eva Jacobson and her Uncles Arthur and Bill lived in the house George and Jean Farrell now live in. In fact, her Grandfather had it built. Alberta Miller Karrasch was raised in Clermont, in the house where "Red" Moore lives Ginalsburg was on the upper side of the road and on both sides of the creek where the old beaver dam is out past the old John Martin farm, or what is now known as the Walker hunting camp, roughly two miles out the road toward Wilcox (editor's note:--Ginalsburg was settled in 1843 as part of the Society of Industry, along with Teutonia. It was named after Heinrich Ginal, one of the 5 trustees of Gewerbe-Verein.
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