picture is an early Ambrotype. The print is made on an emulsion on a
glass plate and does not appear correct until a black background is
applied. It was probably taken at or shortly after the wedding of the
couple that took place in Cortland, DeKalb County, Illinois on
September 20, 1859, making it a very early photo indeed. It is unique
and very fragile.
DeKalb County. Illinois was
considered the frontier in the
1850s. Eric, or Errick, as he signed himself then, was born in 1837 in
western New York State but moved when only about three with his parents to Illinois. A brother
was not born until Eric was thirteen so he was undoubtedly given many
chores on the farm. Coming of age on a frontier prairie farm gives a
man many skills required of a homesteader. In his life we will
see him as a farmer, stone mason, saw mill operator, carpenter, and
railroad construction contractor.
was born in Greene, Chenango County in upstate New York in 1831. She
was the tenth of eleven children of Rev. Charles Felix Barnett and his
wife Clarissa (Whitmore) Barnett. Her story must be told before we
proceed with the couple's life.
was Charlotte's third husband. In 1852 she married a local boy, Henry
Pike and they moved to Wisconsin to farm a homestead he had bought
there. They had a baby, Mary Elizabeth, born in 1853. Later in that
year or early in 1854, Henry died and Charlotte returned to Greene
where she is found with her child in the 1855 census. She is living
with her father. Interestingly, Henry's father, William Pike kept a
careful diary, and although he mentions the sicknesses and deaths of
some of his children, he is silent about Henry. He and his wife are
later on good terms with Charlotte, so Henry's death is assumed.
follows in the next few years is cloudy. In 1856 Charlotte is again in
the Old Northwest. Family lore says she is married to Doctor John
Morgan and they have a baby, named Kate Ford Morgan in 1856 in Edina,
Knox County, Missouri. It must be said that no documentation can be
found for any of this probably due to the sometimes disorganized state
of frontier life and because life in Missouri and surrounding territory
in this period was in near anarchy and turmoil leading up to
the Civil War. Armed factions from both abolitionist and slave holding
groups roamed the countryside and terrorized settlers. Missouri had
regiments on both sides of the upcoming tragedy. It has been said by
her daughter, Marcia, that Charlotte served as midwife for her husband
during this time, a life we can unfortunately only imagine. Kate's
application says her father died in 1857. She was named Kate Ford after
Charlotte's sister Kate who married a man named Ford.
then twenty six years old, twice a widow, with two small girls to
raise. At this time in circumstances we do not know, she met Eric
Crossett, a man six years her junior. Now we can return to the
beginning of the tale started above.
were in transition from Illinois to New York in early 1860 for it is
the Village of Greene in Chenango County that their first child
together, Frank Lyman, is born in June. A search for them in the census
seemed fruitless. By scanning page by page I believe I found them.
Directly following the entry for Simon A. Barnett, Charlotte's brother,
in the July 1860 census, a family is found named Crossell. It's not
just a misspelling. The husband and father is called "Heman", the wife
Charlotte (the enumerator would know her), two daughters named "Lydia"
and "Catherine" and a son "Merrick" aged one month. The ages all match
the Eric Crossett family and the names play with the truth, like
Catherine for Kate and a play on Erick with Merrick. I'm convinced this
is the Crossett family. A Crossell family does not exist in future
censuses. Why this was done is impossible to say right now. Maybe they
knew how it would drive a genealogist crazy. Maybe it was just for fun.
Soon the Civil War was to begin. Eric
joined the Cavalry in August of 1862 with his wife
very pregnant for their second child, Eric Smith Jr., my
grandfather. Charlotte was left living with her father. Eric Sr.s war
story will be told in a separate chapter. "Private Eric Crossett"
Upon Eric's return from war in April
of 1865, they took up residence in Greene where they are found
in the 1865 New York State census. The entry is interesting in that it
shows all the children named Crossett, and all born in Chenango County.
One wonders who gave the information or why more precise data was not
and Charlotte wasted no time in growing their family.
Simon ( called
"Sime" ), seen here, was in the business of construction. The
Albany and Susquehanna Railroad Company were building a line from
to Binghamton that would soon replace the canal that ran from
Binghamton to the Erie Canal. Sime landed the contract to build the
right of way including the roadbed and all the bridges, culverts, and
cattle passes needed. He contracted the stone work to his
brother-in-law. Eric's 1868 diary tells something of
work. He employed several men, and owned horses and
as a pile driver and a stone boat (a large sled to pull stones from
quarry to work site.) It was better than a wagon to bear the
of stone and to maneuver over rough ground. He managed these assets to
earn a good living for the family.
Lyman b. June 1860
Smith Jr. b. 10 October 1862
Ermine Minerva b. April 1867
H. b. 1869
Alice b. 13 April 1872
Beryl b. 1877
springing up everywhere, the country had been spanned by them and the
prospects of wealth and power did not escape the venture capitalists of
the day. Prominent among them were J. P. Morgan, Jay Gould, and Jim
Fisk. They gave the name "robber baron" its meaning. The following
excerpt from Wikipedia describes the tumultuous history of the Albany
"In the summer of 1869, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk began to buy up shares
A&S, aiming to accumulate a controlling interest and install
their own people to the board and take over. The A&S president
at the time, Joseph H. Ramsey, reacted to Gould and Fisk by issuing
thousands of shares that had been sitting on the company's books to his
supporters; Ramsey then had the books spirited from his office and
buried in the Albany Cemetery. Gould and Fisk, incensed by his actions,
had him suspended as president of the A&S by a judge they
controlled on the New York State Supreme Court, George G. Barnard.
Ramsey responded and applied to Albany judge Rufus W. Peckham, both
sides trying to force the A&S into the control of a partisan
recipient. Peckham succeeded, getting his order in first by a matter of
Subsequently, Fisk stormed the office of the A&S in Albany with
hired thugs; he was then taken to a police station by an A&S
employee masquerading as a policeman. As soon as he was free from jail,
Fisk returned to the A&S headquarters with a restraining order
signed by Judge Barnard and a new set of thugs. They took over the
A&S station at Binghamton, stealing a train, and set off down
the line to Albany, seizing stations as they went; A&S men
flipped a switch to derail the cars. Fisk and his recruits met their
adversaries, the men of the A&S, in a tunnel near Harpursville,(now Tunnel, N.Y.)
proceeding to attack each other with all manner of weapons until the
governor ordered state militia to take charge of the road.
Morgan, who had arranged a $500,000 mortgage for the road and been
appointed a trustee, arrived in New York on 1 September and was
recruited by Ramsey’s supporters. In the name of Dabney,
Morgan bought six hundred shares of A&S and made
all the shareholders loyal to Ramsey, ensuring that they or their
proxies would be present at the annual meeting held in Albany on 7
September. Personally supervising the voting, Morgan was elected a
vice-president and director of the road. Gould and Fisk counteracted by
voting in their own men in separate elections. The case reached the New
York State Supreme Court that ruled in favour of the Ramsey group’s
elections. Morgan subsequently leased the A&S to the Delaware
Hudson Canal Company on 24 February 1870 for ninety nine years, taking
the company out of play."
So we see that by 1869 the railroad was complete. What part
Eric may have taken in these exciting times is not known to us since
all his diaries (except two) were destroyed by his daughter Martha
after his death. We can see by the existing diary that Eric made good
money as a stonemason.
1870 the family can be found in Broome County, New York operating a
sawmill in the Town of Windsor. Mary Elizabeth has married and she and
her husband, Monroe Foote, are in residence. It is difficult
envision what this sawmill looked like. Thousands of portable sawmills
built right after the Civil War, operated until trees in the
surrounding hills were completely cut, then the portable mills were
dismantled and moved on. I was
able to locate the site on an 1870 map by matching the names of
neighbors on the 1870 census. It is on a road wonderfully
"Honey Hollow." The mill might have been powered by the fast running
creek running down the hollow as it still does today. It may have given
power by acting on a horizontal water wheel. More probably a
steam engine was used taking its water from the creek. Eric may have
had the steam engine from his pile driver to use at the mill or he may
taken over a mill already built by someone else. Circular saws had only
recently come into common use. This more recent image may
the scale of the operation and its type as it was then.
This portable sawmill was manufactured
by B. W. Payne in Elmira, N. Y. This image with others
appears on the website of the New England
Wireless and Steam Museum It, or one like it, may well have
been used by Eric.
diligent search I have been unable to find Eric and Charlotte in the
1875 New York State Census. Their son, William H. is living or visiting
on a local farm. He was only five at the time so the family was not far
away. Possibly the
family was overlooked by the census enumerator or had moved south a bit
into Pennsylvania only a few miles away. By this time they were middle
aged. This image is from the period in question.
has clearly had its impression on them but they appear healthy and
prosperous. Their hands seem particularly eloquent as they are hands of
hard workers probably quite unused to the garb they wear. Their
hands are partially clenched, maybe from the stress of having to sit
still until the picture developed.
was at some date in this period (ca. 1880) that sons Frank and Eric set off
work. Frank married in 1882 and Eric in 1885 so at this time they were
very much bachelors. At the end of their "Odyssey" they wrote home to
their sisters and enclosed a poem they had written about their
adventures. They called it "Crossett
Boys En Tramp".
1885, with the boys back home, Eric Sr. and family had moved to
Binghamton, in neighboring
Broome County, New York. He and his two oldest sons, Frank and Eric Jr.
started a stone masonry and construction business. They purchased a
quarry on Pennsylvania Avenue atop Ingraham Hill and set up a stone
yard in town.
this size it is a bit hard to see, but Eric Sr. with beard is in the
center standing. In the back row, to the left of the fellow standing on
the stone, are Eric Jr., Frank, and William. They were about 23, 25,
and 16 in 1885 so this photo is taken about that time. Eric Jr. and
Frank were the owners of the business. All three men lived near the
stone yard. In 1890 an entry is found in the Proceedings of the
Binghamton City Council to grant permission for Eric Crossett Sr. to
build a house on Griswold Street on Binghamton's east side.
house was to be the final residence of this couple, seen here standing
to the right. It was to be their home from 1891 until 1918 when
Charlotte died. In it many incidents of the Crossett family
history took place. Binghamton City directories show that, for a few
years, daughter Bessie lived there and worked as a cigar maker. Not
many other permanent residents are shown, but family stories and
documents tell another tale. As can be seen on the front porch of the
picture, people came and went with regularity. Eric and Charlotte were
the hub of the family that had many spokes. There were sad times.
Charlotte's daughter by
her first husband, Mary Elizabeth (Pike) Foote had four children. The
1892 census shows that two of them, Eva, and Ernest, were living at
Griswold Street. A third, James, may also have been there. Tragically,
In January of 1893 twenty year old Eva died and was buried from the
house. Only eight months later her brother James, aged only seventeen,
followed her in death. He, too was buried from 8 Griswold. The
lack of an 1890 census and the incompleteness of the 1892
make it hard to know where their parents were at this time.
of 1894 their youngest son, William died of Typhoid Fever. He
was a gifted sculptor and did stone carving on the Capitol
Building in Albany. It was on his way back from there that he took sick
and died in Windsor, New York.
also had a daughter by her second husband. Her name was Kate Ford
was married briefly to a Mr. Miller and had two daughters by him,
Charlotte (named for her grandma) and Nellie. They were born just a
year apart. In 1903 Nellie died of pneumonia at age twenty.
lived at 8 Griswold in the 1900 census. The funeral was from
there. Also in 1903 Charlotte's brother Simon (Sime) died as did her
son-in-law Frank Hoerl, Martha's husband. In 1908 Nellie's sister
Charlotte (Lottie) aged twenty six,
died of kidney disease at her home in Delaware but was brought to
buried in the Crossett family plot at Floral Park Cemetery already occupied by several family members.
was not all sad times, of course. Family seemed drawn to the
Crossett homestead. Daughter Marcia and her husband Seth Smalley
briefly lived close by until moving to Cuba to start a plantation. (a
story to be told elsewhere) When their children were old enough for
high school and could not get adequate schooling in Cuba, they came and
stayed at 8 Griswold. Bessie was married while living at home to a
handsome young minister, John D. Waldron. All the family were close.
Reunions were held annually during which cousins and friends assembled
from surrounding counties. They are a story in themselves.
the house is no longer standing. It has been replaced by a
parking lot. The picture has hardly fared better. Stored in
trunks in attics and basements, exposed to heat and flood, and copied
on acidic paper it is a survivor. Still, we're lucky to have it and its
connection to all its stories.
senior was truly a jack of all trades, skilled with his hands and a
hard working man all his life. Even though he suffered some disability
from his Civil War service he continued in contracting work until he
retired and then farmed and took care of his horses and kept busy. In
1908, while on trip to New Castle Delaware to visit his daughter Kate
and her husband, he suffered a head injury in being thrown from a wagon
when the horse shied. He was brought home to Griswold Street and
lingered on until May of the following year when he died. He, too was
waked from his home with all the ceremony of the Grand Army of the
Republic and joined his son and
grandchildren in Floral Park Cemetery.
continued on as matriarch of the family. She is seen here at the end of
her life in a four generation portrait with son Eric Smith Crossett
Jr., his daughter Grace Loomis, and her daughter, Dorothy.
was a life filled with loss. She was next to the last surviving sibling in a
family of eleven. She lost three husbands, a son, four
grandchildren, and a son-in-law. She remained a strong, determined
woman through all of her life's adventures and departed the family in
September of 1918, the end of an era for the Crossett family.